Inspiring others: the deaf teacher who is breaking down barriers

Alysha Allen tells Emma Sheppard why being a deaf teacher in a mainstream school helps her bring a twist to lessons that builds bonds.

Alysha Allen almost didn’t make it through her teacher training. The 33-year-old, who was diagnosed as profoundly deaf when she was two, was daunted by the prospect of having to spend six weeks in a mainstream primary school. “I thought it wasn’t going
to work,” she says. “I almost gave up on the whole teaching thing at that point.”

Fortunately, her tutor helped her organise a placement at Brimsdown primary in Enfield, north London, a mainstream school with a hearing impaired resource base (known as the HIRBiE team). All of the children at the school are taught British Sign Language (BSL), and signing workshops are run for staff and family members. The school also has a team of communication support workers to help deaf children communicate with hearing staff and children.

For Allen, the school’s inclusive ethos was just what she needed to thrive. She has now been there for three years, and was recently named New Teacher of the Year at the TES School Awards 2020, as well as picking up a special contribution award from the Maths Hub, a national programme that aims to spread excellent practice in teaching the subject. “It’s a bit surreal,” she says of the recognition.

As a child, Allen initially attended a mainstream primary school, before transferring to a boarding school for deaf children when she was nine. “The classes were smaller, and we all sat in a horseshoe so you could see everyone,” she says. “I loved it.” She later passed her 11-plus and went on to another specialist residential school – the Mary Hare school in Newbury, Berkshire.

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