Deaf children’s services face decimation, say campaigners

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Campaigners have called on the UK Government to take urgent action to prevent the decimation of deaf children’s services.

The clarion call follows the publication of the latest annual survey by the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (CRIDE).

It shows that over the lest seven years, despite a 31 per cent increase in the number of deaf children that councils have a legal duty to assess and provide support for, the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf has been cut by 14 per cent.

As well as the current pressure on services from staffing cuts and the number of deaf children increasing, figures show that a third of councils have also found it difficult to recruit new specialist teaching staff. This is happening at the same time as nearly 60 per cent of existing specialist staff are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Susan Daniels, the Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society said:

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.

We already have too few specialist Teachers of the Deaf across England, but with 60 per cent due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, the Government’s current complacency is a complete dereliction of duty. 

I’m profoundly deaf, and know all too well the challenges of growing up without support. 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 report lays bare the reality of year-on-year cuts to specialist support. Over a quarter of services now have one specialist teacher for every 80 students, and in 15 per cent of services, there is one teacher for over 100 students. Daniels added:

This is a ridiculous situation. One teacher cannot possibly support 100 children — at the end of the day, it is deaf children and their families who will suffer the most from this. This cannot continue.

Emma Fraser, who has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf for the last nine years, said:

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

Caroline Blenkhorn, whose four-year-old daughter is deaf added:

I’ve seen first-hand what cuts to Teachers of the Deaf looks like. 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. Her 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.

The National Deaf Children’s Society 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.

Secondly, that the Department for Education properly funds the education of deaf children.

Daniels said:

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. The Government has a responsibility to ensure deaf children get the support they need, and at the moment they are 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.

 Summary of key findings of 2017 CRIDE survey

There are at least 45,631 deaf children in England; a reported increase of 11% over the past year.

78% of school-aged deaf children 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

22% of deaf children are recorded as having an additional special educational need. The most common additional need appears to be moderate learning difficulties.

Around 7% of deaf children have at least one cochlear implant whilst 4% of deaf children have a bone conduction device.

14% of deaf children use an additional spoken language other than English in the home.

66% of severely or profoundly deaf children communicate using spoken English only in school or other education settings. 29% of severely or profoundly deaf children use sign language in some form, either on its own (8%) or alongside spoken English (21%).

The most common post-school destination for deaf young people is further education, with 79% taking this option.

The School Census continues to under-record the number of deaf children, missing 42% of those identified by CRIDE.

19% of deaf children identified by CRIDE have a statement of SEN or an Education, Health and Care plan.

There are at least 1,095.4 Teacher of the Deaf posts, of which 4% were vacant. Of the 1,050 staff working as Teachers of the Deaf, 87% held the mandatory qualification.

The number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in employment fell by 2% over the past year. It has fallen by 14% since the CRIDE survey started in 2011.

57% of peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50 and thus are likely to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

There are at least 1,378 other specialist support staff working with deaf children in England, a 9% decrease since last year.

83% of services are based in the local authority.

There are 251 resource provisions across England. This is down slightly from 2016 when CRIDE identified 260 resource provisions.

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