Case Study – Learning Support (FD) and Auditory Difficulties

Although this study focuses on a training teacher, it is recommended that information on Fitness to Teach is applicable to trainees who are studying to become Higher Level Teaching Assistants

This case study is taken from Able to Teach, the Teacher Training Agency guidance to providers of initial teacher training on disability discrimination and fitness to teach,

A mature applicant, with a good honours degree in computer science and several years’ experience of working in computing, applies to an ITT provider to teach secondary ICT and mathematics. Her fitness questionnaire says that that she is deaf, but has good spoken language. She needs to see speakers’ faces in one-to-one communication and to work with a sign language interpreter when in groups. She can communicate clearly in written standard English.

The occupational health adviser judged that her hearing impairment was likely to interfere to some extent with her ability to communicate with pupils, parents and colleagues. However, he considered that the candidate’s condition was not serious enough to make her unfit for the teaching profession and that, with reasonable adjustments, she should be able to provide effective and efficient teaching.

The occupational health adviser asked for the candidate’s written consent to share the medical information with the provider, and asked if she would be willing to meet with him and the admissions tutor to discuss what adjustments might be made to help her meet the fitness requirements.


Applying the fitness criteria

In considering whether this candidate was fit to teach, the admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser considered particularly how far she would:

  • be able to communicate effectively with children, parents and colleagues;
  • be able to manage classes;
  • constitute a risk to the health, safety or well-being of children in her care;
  • and how far she could be enabled, by reasonable adjustment, to meet these criteria.

Considering the candidate’s ability to meet the QTS Standards by the end of the programme of ITT

In this case study issues arising from aspects of Standards 1.4, 3.1.4, 3.2.2, 3.3.11 and 3.3.13 were considered.

To qualify as a teacher, trainees must demonstrate that they:

  • 1.4 can communicate sensitively and effectively with parents and carers, recognizing their roles in pupils’ learning, and their rights, responsibilities and interests in this;
  • 3.1.4 take part in, and contribute to, teaching teams, as appropriate to the school. Where applicable, they plan for the deployment of additional adults who support pupils’ learning;
  • 3.2.2 monitor and assess as they teach, giving immediate and constructive feedback to support pupils as they learn;
  • 3.3.11 can take responsibility for teaching a class or classes over a sustained and substantial period of time. They are able to teach across the age and ability range for which they are trained;
  • 3.3.13 work collaboratively with specialist teachers and other colleagues and, with the help of an experienced teacher as appropriate, manage the work of teaching assistants or other adults to enhance pupils’ learning.

Risk assessment

The admissions tutor considered the safety of pupils in the classroom, especially their safe evacuation in the event of a fire or other emergency.


The admissions tutor, occupational health adviser and candidate and identified several possible adjustments:

  • the provision of a vibrating fire alarm pager;
  • providing specialist ICT;
  • providing a sign language interpreter to accompany the candidate throughout the programme, including on the school-based parts.

The candidate explained why she felt that working with a skilled interpreter would not have a significant impact on the pace or quality of lectures or lessons. In her degree course and her pre-application course experience the candidate had found that tutors, teachers and pupils quickly adjusted to her having an interpreter with her and accepted the interpreter as an ‘extension of her’, talking to her through the interpreter in a relaxed and natural fashion. She also explained that the interpreter would not be adding to the exchanges but simply acting as a channel of communication.

They then discussed the cost of the adjustments that would need to be made. The possibility of the candidate gaining extra funding from the DSA was discussed. The candidate explained that she thought that the cost of the ICT equipment she needed could be met from the DSA Specialist Equipment Allowance, and the cost of a sign language interpreter and note taker could be met from the DSA Non-medical Helpers Allowance. The admissions tutor confirmed, if this were the case, the provider would undertake to fund small adaptations such as the fire alarm pager.

Outcome 1: fit to teach

Following the meeting with the candidate, the provider and the provider’s occupational health adviser considered whether the candidate was fit to teach. They took account of the DfES/DoH publication Fitness to teach: occupational health guidance for the training and employment of teachers (2000), Section 16.8: Sensory impairment and considered:

  • the way the potential of the candidate could be optimised through support measures;
  • the need to ensure consistently high standards of education for all pupils;
  • the extent to which the candidate would be able to complete all aspects of training satisfactorily;
  • whether the candidate would be able to supervise pupils safely and whether any reasonable adjustments – including the provision of support staff – could be made to ensure this.

They considered the full range of duties that the candidate would be required to undertake to complete training requirements satisfactorily. They received confirmation that the costs of the necessary ICT equipment and an interpreter for the required number of hours could be met.


They concluded that the adjustments required were reasonable to make, and the candidate’s evidence of successfully using a combination of lip-reading and working with an interpreter in other situations gave the provider confidence that she had the potential to meet all the QTS Standards. They were satisfied that the fitness to teach criteria were met, and therefore concluded that the candidate was fit to teach mathematics and computing to secondary-aged pupils.

NOTE In this case study there is no difficulty in covering the cost of reasonable adjustments, but see section 6 where it is reasonable not to admit a candidate because the adjustments cannot be met for cost reasons. 

(information extracted and accessed January 2007) 

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