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Deaf Student Benefits from a Different Approach

Katie-Marie Greenan in class and Katie with AAT tutor Julie Todd-Davis
Katie with AAT tutor Julie Todd-Davis 

A deaf student has described how lip reading has been the secret of her success in staying on track for a long career in finance. Katie-Marie Greenan, from Billingham, will finish her Level 3 AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting next February having returned to College, after a ten-year break.

Julie Todd-Davis first taught Katie as a 17-year-old when she passed the Level 2 course, sealing an apprenticeship too but really struggled with the Level 3 content and postponed her studies.  She then moved to Leeds and didn't continue her studies. Katie, who was born profoundly deaf, returned to the area and went to work in a local supermarket as a personal shopper. The 28-year-old knew that finance was her passion and decided to give it another go and started a Level 3 apprenticeship with the NHS Commissioning Unit in May last year. She is now on a secondment as a Band 4 Finance Officer. Julie and Katie have worked well together to see her shine.

Katie, whose first language is British Sign Language, said: “I sign at work but when the signer was here I found it challenging to look at the signer, the teacher and then the board. I found it hard even though the signer was doing an excellent job at communicating, as it was information overload. The signer sometimes struggled to explain some of the financial terminology, it was hard for them and me. It was taking longer than just watching Julie and lip reading. I spoke to Julie and we decided to attempt to do lip reading only, we sometimes have to write things down, use spreadsheets and annotations though we found this method worked much better for us.”

There are more than 11 million people in the UK who are either deaf or hard of hearing. It is estimated that figure will grow over the next ten years, and as things stand there are only 151,000 users of British Sign Language despite the enormous benefits Katie’s aware of.On the accountancy course, Julie said: “I direct all of the speech to Katie and this has been really effective. On an afternoon Katie has a note taker, who takes notes on the theory and marks the exercises on the spreadsheet, and notifies me if Katie needs further support. "

Katie got 77 per cent in her first exam with a signer and in the second unit, with the lip-reading technique she achieved an impressive 95 per cent. What’s important to stress here is that we have communicated as a team and adapted the qualification to the individual learner’s need. Katie is a shining example of how she hasn’t let her disability affect her progress. She is confident and has a lovely demeanor. I provide individualised support to all my students to enable them to succeed and build confidence.”

Katie could have gone to Stockton or Middlesbrough’s colleges but wanted to work again with Julie. The former St Michael’s pupil has always had a thirst for working with numbers and in finance. Katie, a big Middlesbrough FC fan, said: “My favourite subject has always been maths. Because of my disability, I felt I was put in the wrong class at school, but I got a B when I was supposed to get a D! I have always wanted to come back to finish my Level 3 and I am in the right mind frame. With the job I have got they go together nicely. I knew I would be in safe hands with Julie, she is an excellent teacher. I love my job. I have had previous jobs where there was no motivation there to develop and I want to be more professional. I really struggled with double entry book-keeping but since starting the course my skills are vastly improving with Julie’s help.” 


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