Right to Sign — What happens next?

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

The Department for Education in England recently confirmed that it does not object in principle to the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). The Department also said that it was open to considering proposals for this GCSE for introduction in the longer term. We think this is a positive step forward. Previously, the Government had refused to consider any new GCSEs.

However, it’s important to note that the process for delivering a GCSE in BSL will not be short or easy.

Any exam body, such as Signature, will need to meet the requirements set by the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual. In addition, the Department for Education has also said that any new GCSE could not be introduced in this Parliament so that schools can have a period of ‘stability’. Assuming there is no early election, this means there can be no new GCSE before 2022.

We are frustrated by the delay and that the Department continue to prioritise ‘stability’ over the need to ensure fairness for deaf young people. At the same time, we want any GCSE to be of the highest standard and we recognise it will take time for it to be ready. It’s important that any new GCSE in BSL has the same credibility as other GCSEs.

We’re calling on the Department to do everything it can to support and expedite progress, so that a new GCSE is ready to go as soon as the next Parliament begins. We want to see evidence they’re taking a ‘can-do’ attitude towards making a BSL GCSE a reality.

We’ve already had lots of questions about how the BSL GCSE will work. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to say how it will work in practice and much will depend on the progress that the Department, Ofqual and exam bodies like Signature make. Watch this space! More information about Signature’s work in this area can be found on their website.

There’s still a long way to go but we could not have got to where we are now without all the hard work by our campaigners and supporters – thank you to all those who’ve supported our Right to Sign campaign. We’ll be keeping a close eye on progress and will keep you updated.

Changing Technology: How we help you keep pace

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Kim Hagen, Technology Research Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

I recently came across an old survey we ran in 1984. One of its main conclusions was that parents felt they had limited access to easily understood information about technology. Using technology can be quite daunting at the best of times, and it’s especially hard to see its benefits if you don’t have all the relevant information!

We’ve worked hard in the past decades to ensure families have the information they need to make an informed choice on the right technology to support their child. We cover technology in our events for families and parents of deaf children. Our Roadshow bus delivers technology sessions to schools around the UK. We sent out 1,866 copies of our ‘How Technology Can Help’ and ‘How Radio Aids Can Help’ booklets last year. We continue to campaign for better provision of technology to deaf children and young people; last year, we published research on the benefits of using radio aids in the early years at home. And let’s not forget our Blue Peter Technology Loan Service that went live in the mid-1980s. The name has since changed to the Technology Test Drive, but the principle is still the same: a free-of-charge technology loan service offering deaf children and young people, their families and the professionals working with them the opportunity to borrow products and try them out in their own environment.

We have close to 100 different kinds of products on our Technology Test Drive. Technology is constantly evolving and children want to be seen with the latest tech. That’s why we continuously update our stock. And we recently launched the Borrow to Buy scheme in which our members can borrow all the latest Phonak Roger radio aids, soundfield systems and accessories. But remember: despite the changes in technology the fundamental principles of how technology can benefit deaf children don’t change that much. A few examples:

• Amplified headphones can help young children listen to videos on an iPad and develop their vocabulary.
• Alarm clocks with a vibrating pad can help young children learn to tell the time and older children to get up on their own and be more independent.
• Radio aids can help your child make the most out of education and fulfil their true potential.
• Streamers can be a great way for deaf young people to make phone calls on their own, taking control of their lives and embracing responsibilities.
• Direct input leads can be used to listen to music. They look similar to the in-ear headphones a teenager’s peers may have, making them fit in and helping to develop their social identity.

The summer holidays are nearly here. Many of us might even have a break from our everyday hectic lives. Why not take this time as an opportunity to try out technology with your child? Access our Technology Test Drive, put in a request, and… happy testing!

Wales’ new Youth Parliament — Are you excited?

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

Something exciting is happening in Welsh politics. And not just exciting for old politic geeks like me – exciting for young people across Wales.

A new youth parliament is being set up. A proper parliament with members elected by young people aged 11-18.

Welsh Youth Parliament Members will take up post for two years. There will be 60 in total – 40 will be elected by young people in their area and the other 20 will be selected by partner organisations. The Welsh Youth Parliament Members will meet three times in Cardiff Bay’s Senedd and will also attend regional meetings – with the Welsh Assembly covering travel costs.

Working as Policy and Campaigns Officer for the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru over the past ten years, I’ve met many inspiring young deaf people who are keen to make a difference. These passionate individuals rarely consider themselves to be politics enthusiasts, but they do have an interest in bringing down barriers and making lives better. And although some might disagree, I’ve always felt this is what politics is fundamentally about (or at least what it should be about!)

This is a chance for young people to speak out about the issues that matter to them. Having met so many deaf young people who are keen to do just that, I’d like to think their voices will be represented in this new parliament.

More info on how to register to vote or stand for election is available here and key dates are below. Exciting times!

Voter registration:
28 May 2018 – 16 November 2018
Elections:
5 November 2018 – 25 November 2018
Apply to be part of the Welsh Youth Parliament:
3 September 2018 – 30 September 2018
Election results:
Announced in December 2018

Liam’s vlog – What can you do about the £4 million cuts?

Liam, a past member of our Youth Advisory Board has been vlogging all week for #DeafAwarenessWeek2018.

He’s just done his first signed VLOG (Go Liam!) and it’s all about our Stolen Futures campaign.

 

If you haven’t already – don’t forget to email your MP!

P.S: If you want to hear from him – check out his YouTube channel!

£4 million cuts – deaf children’s services at crisis point.

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Jess Reeves, Campaigns Manager, National Deaf Children’s Society

Enough is enough. The Government must step up and support deaf children.

One third of councils in England are cutting a total of £4million from their budgets for deaf children’s education.

This comes at the same time as numbers of Teachers of the Deaf are falling and numbers of deaf children are rising. Research published earlier this year shows a ten percent drop in the number of these highly specialised teachers since 2014 and an 11% rise in the number of deaf children from 2016 to 2017. Over half of the remaining teachers are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Is it any wonder then that despite the Government’s major reform of the special educational needs system in England, two thirds of deaf children are still failing to achieve the key target of a ‘good’ grade 5 in GCSE English and Maths? We know that deaf children who get the right support in their education can do just as well as their hearing friends. This is why the Government must step in to prevent this mounting crisis. We are calling on them to:

• meet with us to discuss this as a matter of urgency
• ensure central government funding keeps pace with the rise in demand for support for deaf children’s education
• take action to train up the next generation of Teachers of the Deaf.

You can help
Contact your MP today and ask them to email Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi encouraging him to meet us to discuss this.

Find out more
To see what we know about education services for deaf children in your area please visit our online interactive map.
Interested in the research and data mentioned above? Check out the data page on our website.

Daniel’s Vlog – My Meeting with Nick Gibb

Hi, my name is Daniel and I’m a campaigner. I recently went to the Houses of Parliament in London to meet with the Minister for Schools Standards at the Department for Education, Nick Gibb MP. I asked to meet him because there still isn’t a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). This is really unfair to all children who use BSL as their first language. Have a look at my vlog to learn all about my day and my chat with Nick Gibb!

(This video is in BSL with subtitles)

 

 

https://e-activist.com/page/21204/action/1

Social Care, Deafness…and the Oscars

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Rachel Shenton’s Oscar-winning film, The Silent Child, highlights the importance of deaf children getting access to language and communication. If a deaf child is deprived of language, deprived of any opportunity to communicate with others, their fundamental human rights are being breached. In the film we see 4 year old Libby taught to flourish when she is taught sign language.

For everyone working in social care, this film is a timely reminder that deafness is not an issue to be forgotten about and brushed under the carpet. Deafness is not a learning disability and, with the right support from parents, education and other services, deaf children can achieve just as well as any other children.

But in reality, children’s social care, and social workers aren’t intervening early enough to prevent deaf children suffering neglect through language deprivation. There are many reasons for this but it’s important to remember that we must not blame parents, the majority of whom have had no experience of deafness and are seeking advice and support to just do their best.

There were once specialist social workers for deaf people working with both deaf children and deaf adults – but an unintended consequence from the separation of children and adult social care services in the mid-2000s meant these teams were no longer viable. Specialist children’s social workers joined general children’s disability teams, and due to pressures on time and resources, support for deaf children drastically reduced. This specialist expertise has now disappeared. Well-meaning professionals, who don’t have the training or the knowledge, are now all too often making dangerous decisions about what is best for deaf children.

I’ve seen some shocking cases. When discussing how a profoundly deaf young person, with significant additional needs, and whose first language was British Sign Language, could be supported in a mainstream children’s home, a senior manager suggested to me they could be ‘taught to lip-read’ and not given any sign language support.
Another social worker told a parent that their child didn’t need any language support as he was “only deaf”. I don’t blame the social workers here – it’s a lack of deaf awareness and a lack of real understanding of the lived experience of a deaf child.
But highlighting these issues isn’t enough. We need action. Research shows that the early years are critical for developing language and communication skills, and if neglected, they have long term consequences. But at the moment, the social care system doesn’t put early intervention services on a statutory footing. What’s more, we are seeing cuts across the country to posts like Teachers of the Deaf who are a key part of an early intervention service.

All of this highlights how deaf children and their social care needs are falling through the cracks. There are various options for how this can be improved. One answer could be to identify and train existing social care professionals as ‘champions’ for deaf children’s social care within their area. Neighbouring local authorities could jointly commission posts and share their resources. Deaf and other sensory charities could also be used more effectively. All of these are viable options for making sure that deaf children don’t get left behind in the social care system, as is sadly so often the case.

So while there are many challenges ahead, I hope that with a clear understanding of the problems, and just a little bit of Oscar glory, we can start to improve social care for deaf children across the UK.