Teacher devises first specialist curriculum for deaf-blind children

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Multi-sensory impairment education 'comes of age' after five years of development work

The country's first specialist curriculum for deaf-blind children has been developed by a classroom teacher.

Heather Murdoch spent more than five years devising the detailed document amid concerns that pupils with multi-sensory impairment (MSI) are not getting a sufficiently high-quality education.

It is hoped that her curriculum, which has won the backing of Sense, the charity for deaf-blind people, will benefit thousands of pupils and teachers.

She has also been praised by a union leader for her "immense creativity".

Dr Murdoch, who has more than 30 years' experience of working with MSI children, designed the curriculum while working at the Birmingham MSI unit at the city's Victoria School, a major centre for children with physical disabilities.

"This is the first curriculum that spells out how we work with students at different stages, how they develop and how they progress," said Dr Murdoch. "There is no other curriculum like it in the UK.

"MSI pupils have to have a different curriculum because their condition can cause problems. If you can't see or hear well, you start school with no understanding of how to learn."

Eileen Boothroyd, education officer at Sense, said: "MSI children have only been recognised in the last 15 years.

"The impairment makes learning in the ordinary classroom extremely difficult, especially for teachers. This new curriculum means MSI education is coming of age."

The 150-page document includes content backed up with in-depth case studies for teachers to draw on.

In June 2007, Ofsted visited Victoria School while the curriculum was being developed, describing it as "excellent".

It was after this recognition that Dr Murdoch and her colleagues decided to offer the curriculum to other schools for the 4,000 MSI children in the UK.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "The current curriculum has such an uneven approach.

"The fact that a teacher has done this has shown immense creativity and shows how teachers are capable of creating a future curriculum."

Dr Murdoch's curriculum can be downloaded free from the Sense website. It has been accessed 400 times since being made available at the beginning of the year.

"I am so pleased it's free to access," she said. "It means it will be used more widely."

Sense believes that with the Government and Ofsted pushing for individual learning programmes, the current climate is ideal for its release.

"The curriculum is refreshing, different and practical," says Ms Boothroyd.

"There are many examples to use for individual children, and how to adapt it. Ten schools have trialled it. See what you can do with it."

www.sense.org.ukmsi-curriculum.

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