Jo Houlcroft is the founder of Jo Houlcroft Communications, and has previously worked as an in-house PR for Manchester Arena and supporting the launch of charity events such as Manchester vs Cancer. We were so excited to be able to hear from Jo hope she has used her skills and experience to highlight such an important issue, create real change and how we can support too.
Can you give a summary of the change you have created and how?
Mine relates more to change in terms of personal development. I've always wanted to learn sign language, but kept putting it off because of work commitments, children etc, but last September I finally signed up to a part time course studying British Sign Language - BSL Level One. It’s complicated and I’m exercising parts of my brain that have probably been dormant for a few decades (!) but I’m really enjoying it.
Why did you want to create change?
Last year, two things prompted me to stop prevaricating! One was watching the Oscar nominated short film, The Silent Child, which highlights the loneliness of deaf children who are thrust into mainstream schools with little or no provision for the challenges they face. Secondly my friend's father became profoundly deaf following treatment for cancer so the whole family began to learn it.
What change would you like to see?
Because of a lack of support, deaf children often fail to communicate, thereby falling behind at school, and failing to achieve their potential. A recent report, which surveyed almost every authority in England, found more than a quarter of services have one specialist teacher for every 80 students, and in 15% of services there was one teacher for more than 100 students.
What actions can we take to help create that change?
Well probably more awareness about the job opportunities in this area as figures also show that a third of councils seeking new specialist staff have found it difficult to recruit. Funding is an issue, as in every service, but this could be made more of a priority.
Any advice on how to create change?
Encouraging all children to gain even a basic understanding of sign language and to harness an interest would be a positive start. It can easily be taught as children are so receptive to learning these kind of skills (more so than adults!) and they often find it fun. My 10 year old daughter mastered the sign language alphabet in no time at all. As for making changes to your life in general, well it's never too late to learn a new skill, either for professional reasons or just personal fulfilment.