Official NRCPD response to this morning’s article on qualifying to be an interpreter by undergraduate degree course

Posted on December 11, 2014

Below is an official response from the NRCPD to this morning’s article by an anonymous writer about people qualifying to be a sign language interpreter by getting a first class degree at undergraduate level.

My name is Kate Price, the new Registration Manager at NRCPD. I am writing in response to the article ‘Anonymous: If people can register as a BSL interpreter with just a degree, the Deaf community’s doomed’.

NRCPD exists to protect the public by setting standards of quality and providing an objective complaints process. We therefore take claims that standards are being eroded seriously.

However, the author of the article makes the mistake of focusing on the fact the University of Wolverhampton degree is undergraduate, rather than the content of the course. It is the content which determines whether a course is a valid route to registration.

When our Professional Standards Advisers – in this case an experienced sign language interpreter – consider whether a course is a valid route, their starting point is the National Occupational Standards (NOS). If a course provides people with the necessary abilities and experience to meet the NOS, it is approved. In this case, we decided only graduates with a first class degree will meet the NOS.

The establishment of NOS was a big step forward in the professionalisation of sign language interpreting. It was the result of years of work by many experienced and qualified people. We understand many people aren’t aware of that or how routes to registration are approved, so we are glad of the opportunity to provide clarification. Future writers are welcome to contact us for information when preparing articles.

Of course, it’s legitimate to explore whether or not the NOS are still suitable. But that needs to be done in a systematic way, including taking account of the different needs and experiences of deaf people.

The article also says first class Wolverhampton graduates will have “only a work placement to their name”. We fully understand the importance of practical experience for interpreters, so we were delighted when the External Examiner said of the placements:

“I believe that the placement module that I reviewed is one of the best developed in any interpreter training programmes that I am familiar with. It is highly developed and well thought through and offers students a wonderfully well-defined introduction to working in their chosen field… student work suggests that the candidates internalise a great deal of awareness of professional standards.

“I cannot emphasise how highly I rate this module. It is a gem and I strongly recommend that Wolverhampton consider how they can disseminate widely the process and outcome of their approach in this area, as it is a real credit to the department. The placement module is excellent and is fast becoming a model for other departments, and other institutions.”

The author makes the claim “we all know that the standards for BSL interpreters have dropped”. Earlier this year the BDA held a discussion on the issue of quality. It was attended by many organisations, including NRCPD. The meeting decided there are genuine concerns, but before we can act we need a solid base of evidence. We urge anyone to make a complaint if they think someone registered with NRCPD hasn’t acted as the Code of Conduct says they should.

However, the language used in the article is regrettable. Deaf people rely on interpreters and other communication and language professionals for access and there is already a shortage. We hope this article won’t erode confidence in the profession and further isolate the deaf community due to a lack of trust.

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