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Deaf student makes teaching history

THE first profoundly deaf student to train as a teacher in Scotland graduated from St Andrew's College in Bearsden, Glasgow yesterday.

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Mr Gerald Hughes, 38, realised a 15-year ambition to complete his one-year postgraduate course to become a secondary school maths teacher after finishing an Open University course. He now hopes to teach in a school for the deaf in Glasgow.

As he waited to collect his degree along with other postgraduate students, Mr Hughes said it had been a long struggle to become a teacher but said he believed deaf children would benefit enormously from being taught by someone who was also deaf. He said he now hoped that other deaf students would follow his example and enter the teaching profession.

Speaking through a sign language interpreter, Mr Hughes described how students at the college had at first found his presence a little frightening but had soon adjusted and attempted to learn a smattering of signs. He attended lectures with the help of his interpreter.

Mr Hughes, whose wife is deaf but has two young hearing daughters, said he had been taught to speak as a child and was not allowed to use sign language, which has only been taught this century since 1979. However, when he became a language researcher he had become interested in signing and felt it was important that deaf people developed their own language.

Describing Mr Hughes's success as a major breakthrough in teacher education, Mr Ivor Sutherland, registrar with the General Teaching Council, said there had been a significant shift in attitudes towards disabilities. There is already a blind teacher employed in a Strathclyde secondary school.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Thomas Winning has warned that planned redundancies at the college also threatened the future of denominational schools.

St Andrew's plans to make 28 academic and 25 support staff redundant in a strategy to absorb funding cuts over the next two years.

But, in an interview with Flourish, the newspaper of the archdiocese of Glasgow, Cardinal Winning said the loss of the college ''whether through a dimunition of the quality of training it provides, or by the erosion of its distinctive Catholic ethos, if forced to amalgamate with a secular college or university, would be severely wounding.''

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