Communication Support Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Communication support workers (CSW's) work in colleges, universities and some schools, helping deaf students to communicate with their teachers and other students.

As a CSW you would work alongside other professionals, such as teachers and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.

Your duties would typically include:

  • Supporting students by lipspeaking, note taking and interpreting between spoken English and BSL.
  • Helping students understand and produce written material in class.
  • Adapting learning materials so that students understand them more easily.
  • Suggesting ways that the school or college environment can be improved to make it easier for students to use hearing aids or lipread.

As a senior CSW, you could co-ordinate a communication support team and carry out related administrative duties.

You would usually work 25 to 30 hours a week during college or university terms (typically 30 to 40 weeks a year). Part-time and sessional work is common, especially as many deaf learners only attend college on a part-time basis.

Your working environment would vary, depending on the type of courses you were supporting – you could work in classrooms, lecture theatres or laboratories, or outdoors on farms, building sites, and other working environments. You may need to travel between college sites.

Communication support workers can earn from around £17,000 to over £26,000 a year.

Many CSW's are employed part-time, for part of the year, so they would receive a proportion of full-time salaries (known as 'pro-rata' payment).

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You would find most jobs in colleges of further education and universities. You could also be employed by schools, local education authorities, vocational training centres or freelance agencies.

Education and Training

If you have at least a Stage 2 Certificate in BSL and experience of working or volunteering with deaf or hearing impaired children, you may be able to find a job as a CSW and complete qualifications whilst working.

To work in a university you may need a degree or specialist subject knowledge.

Signature (formerly CACDP) offers the Level 3 Certificate in Learning Support (Communication Support Worker). See the Signature website for details.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you start work as a communication support worker, you would usually be expected to upgrade your BSL qualifications to level 3 and beyond, and improve your sign language interpreting skills.

You may also be able to complete additional Signature qualifications that are relevant to your job.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A communication support worker needs:

  • Excellent communication skills in English (spoken and written) and BSL.
  • Flexibility and adaptability.
  • Willingness to carry out research, for example, to familiarise yourself with specialised vocabulary.
  • An awareness and understanding of deaf culture.
  • Impartiality and commitment to equal opportunities.
  • Respect for learners' confidentiality.
  • IT skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could move into a management position within sensory impairment or disability services.

With further training, you could progress to become a sign language interpreter or teacher of the deaf.

Get Further Information

Signature, Mersey House, Mandale Business Park, Belmont, Durham DH1 1TH
Tel: 0191 383 1155
Textphone: 0191 383 7915
Website: www.signature.org.uk

Association of Communication Support Workers
Website: www.acsw.org.uk

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