Deaf Children Are Facing An Education ‘Crisis’, National Charity Warns

Ellen Wallwork

Deaf children in England are having “their futures decimated” as the system for supporting them in education is “in complete disarray”, a national charity has warned.

The number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in employment has fallen by 14% since 2011, according to research published today [Monday 8 January] by the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (CRIDE) and supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

This problem facing the 45,000 deaf children in England is compounded by the fact that 57% of existing specialist staff are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and a third of councils have found it difficult to recruit new specialist teaching staff.

“The evidence couldn’t be clearer. From every angle and at every turn, a whole generation of deaf children will have their futures decimated if the Government doesn’t act before it’s too late,” said Susan Daniels, the chief executive of the NDCS.

“The Government’s current complacency is a complete dereliction of duty.”

(National Deaf Childrens Society)

More than 90% of deaf children have hearing parents with little or no previous experience of deafness, so independent expert support can be a vital lifeline.

“I’m profoundly deaf, and know all too well the challenges of growing up without support,” said Daniels. “It means struggling to communicate, falling behind at school, failing to achieve your potential.

“Despite deafness not being a learning disability, deaf children fall a whole grade behind their hearing friends at school. This is only going to get worse if the Government doesn’t intervene.”

The majority (78%) of school-aged deaf children in England attend mainstream schools (where there is no specialist provision). 6% attend mainstream schools with resource provisions, 3% attend special schools for deaf children whilst 12% attend special schools not specifically for deaf children.

Susan Daniels chief executive at the National Deaf Children's Society (National Deaf Childrens Society)

Over a quarter of councils now have just one specialist teacher for every 80 hearing impaired students, and in 15% of services, there is one teacher for more than 100 students.

“This is a ridiculous situation. One teacher cannot possibly support 100 children,” said Daniels. “This cannot continue.”

Caroline Blenkhorn, whose four-year-old daughter is deaf, stressed the impact the lack of specialist support has on children.

“I’ve seen first-hand what cuts to Teachers of the Deaf looks like,” she said.

“Our early years Teacher of the Deaf was incredibly supportive but she was stretched to the limit with the time she could give. As cuts came into effect, coupled with more babies and children being identified with hearing loss, the support she could give to us became less.

“Since moving up to primary school we have had very little support. My daughter’s Teacher of the Deaf left, and the local authority has had no communication with us to say what is happening.

“This is the prime time for my daughter’s learning, and I feel like we are being completely failed by the system.”

Emma Fraser has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf for the last nine years and is disheartened by the current situation. 

“There is absolutely no reason why deaf children can’t achieve as well as any other child, if they are given the right support,” she said.

“From training up classroom teachers to improve how they communicate with deaf children, to doing intensive one-to-one tuition, to organising specialist technology, Teachers of the Deaf are the key to unlocking a deaf child’s future.

“While every local authority is different, such a high proportion relying on one teacher to support up to 100 students is really worrying.

“The sheer volume of students being supported means that corners will be cut. There will be less time in the classroom, less time supporting families as a whole, and less opportunities to work with health professionals to give a deaf child the proper support they need.”

The NDCS is calling on the Government to make two changes in light of this report. 

Firstly, to set up a centralised bursary to fund trainee Teachers of the Deaf, with a recruitment drive to get more of them into the classroom.

And secondly, to “properly fund the education of deaf children”. 

“The Department for Education needs to get a grip on the mounting funding crisis that is putting so many deaf children’s futures at risk,” said Daniels.

“The Government has a responsibility to ensure deaf children get the support they need, and at the moment they utterly failing to live up to this.

“Without action, we face one of the biggest crises for deaf children I have seen in my lifetime.”

In response to the report, Robert Goodwill, Minister of State for children and families said: “We want to ensure children and young people with special educational needs, including those who are deaf, continue to get the support that is right for them.

“That is why we have introduced the biggest reforms in a generation with Education, Health and Care plans that are tailored to the needs of the child or young person. We have given councils £223m extra funding to help them introduce these reforms successfully.

“Most children who are deaf are able to attend their local schools while receiving expert advice, and for those with more complex needs there are specialist deaf schools. This has shown results, with the ‎proportion of children with hearing impairment achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs, including in English and maths, at a record high.”

The Department for Education states decisions about the number of teachers of the deaf are made by local authorities.

For further support, parents can contact the NDCS’ freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email or chat online.

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