Residential special schools and colleges – have your say



Emily Meacher, Campaigns Assistant, National Deaf Children’s Society

Are you a parent of a child in a residential special school or college – or a young person studying in one? If so, a new review has been set up and they want to hear from you. 

What’s this review about?

The Government has asked Dame Christine Lenehan to carry out a review on the experiences and outcomes of children and young people attending residential special schools and colleges. These are sometimes known as boarding schools. The review will help Dame Lenehan come up recommendations for how things might be improved.

Dame Lenehan is keen to hear from as many parents and young people as possible.

How can I take part in the call for evidence?

If you are a parent of a child or young person, the review team are particularly interested in your answers to the following questions:

  • How did you find the process of getting a residential place for your child?
  • Are you happy with where your child is residing?
  • Are you supported in keeping in touch with your child when he/she is away?
  • What outcomes would you like to see from your child attending boarding school/college?

Parents could go through these questions above with their child and discuss together their experiences. Alternatively, there are also some questions for children and young people.

  • What were/are the best things about being at boarding school/college?
  • What were/are the best things about being at boarding school/college?
  • What are the staff who look after you like?
  • What would you like to do after leaving boarding school/college?

How to respond

Each submission to this call for evidence should:

  • be no longer than 2,000 words in length
  • include a brief introduction about yourself/your child and your reason for submitting evidence
  • emailed to before the 17th March.

You can send through responses in alternative formats such as audio or videos.

For more information on the call to evidence, visit the Government’s website.


Wales: I can fingerspell!


Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales

Happy 2017! As all the seasonal festivities come to a close, I often find the first few weeks of January a bit bleak. But we have some good news to kick your January off with a smile….


The deaf young people on our Youth Advisory Board told us that they want more opportunities for people to learn to sign. In light of this, NDCS Cymru has been working with the WJEC to create a new option for Welsh Baccalaureate students across Wales.

The I Can Fingerspell challenge will be open as a Community Challenge option to pupils studying for the foundation level Welsh Baccalaureate. It invites students to learn to fingerspell the alphabet and then pass this knowledge on to younger pupils.

We are very grateful to Leam and Ryan from St Cyres School who helped us to create videos to assist students in learning the English/Welsh fingerspelling alphabet. We would also like to thank our Wales YAB members, Amy and Joab for helping us to come up with the idea for the challenge.


NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 2


Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

This is my second blog on the history of the National Deaf Children’s Society as a contribution to  UK Disability History MonthMy first blog covered the first 20 years of NDCS’s history from 1944 to 1964. This second blog starts in 1965, the year when the post office tower opened, the Beatles released the film Help and the government asks local authorities to convert all mainstream schools into comprehensive schools.


To advance early identification of deafness, NDCS purchases for the Institute of Otology and Laryngology an Enhancetron computer which enable more accurate assessments of young children’s hearing and aided early identification of deafness.


An image from the 1960s campaign ‘if your teddy bear is deaf’, illustrating how to communicate with deaf children


The campaign to replace small all age schools for the deaf and replace them with separate primary and secondary schools is successfully concluded.


A campaign win, with the Ministry of Health agreeing that children would be issued post-aural hearing (behind the ears) aids. Over 11,000 were imported from Denmark and girls aged 14 to 16 years were the first to have them fitted.

NDCS appoints a field officer to support the regional associations (parent groups) affiliated to NDCS.

Successful campaign by parents in Wales to get Llandrindod School moved so that it was accessible to deaf children (I am afraid our records don’t tell us why it had to move but it was important enough for parents to organise  a protest march to achieve their objective).

NDCS challenges BBC TV over its refusal to use captions in the belief that deaf children could not read them. NDCS also asks BBC to use words as well as signing in special programmes specifically for deaf children to avoid giving the mistaken impression that all deaf children were non oral.


The Enhancetron computer proved to be successful so the Medical Research Council provides funding for 3 further years.

NDCS funds research into the usefulness of hearing aids for partially hearing children in schools and audiological assessments of 11 year olds.

The Lewis Committee set up by the government  published its report on the “Education of Deaf Children: the possible place of finger spelling and signing”.  To the disappointment of a number of charities for deaf people, the report was inconclusive. It recommended that more research be done into whether the introduction of manual communication was desirable. On the whole the report left the methods of teaching deaf children unchanged.



Jack Ashley MP and Hugh Rossi MP at the launch of the Sympathetic Hearing Scheme


Fed up with the lack of government progress in implementing the recommendations of the Lewis report, NDCS decides to support research into combined methods of communication in teaching deaf children.


Taking up the concerns of parents about their children’s secondary education, Jack Ashley MP criticises the Minister for Education, Edward Short, and the Dept of Education for their “breathtaking complacency”. 


NDCS along with the RNID, BDA and British Association of the Hard of Hearing form the “Panel of Four” to meet annually with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services. Issues raised included multi-disciplinary assessment of deaf children, psychiatric provision and the supply of hearing aids.


In advance of a major re-organisation of local government boundaries in England in 1974, local parent groups agreed to contact every local authority to ensure the education of deaf children was part of their planning and to suggest what needed to be included in their plans.

Parents groups in Northern Ireland gain a commitment from the authorities to establish 3 hearing support units in mainstream schools.

NDCS successfully challenges the decision by the government to exclude children who were deaf from the effects of thalidomide from a fund set up to help children who were disabled as a result of the drug.


NDCS provides funding towards holiday centre run by the Break Trust for deaf children in care whose parents did not welcome them home during school holidays.

Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education, announces a review of education provision in England, Scotland and Wales for disabled children. The review was chaired by Baroness Warnock.


NDCS submits evidence to the Warnock Committee.

Department of Health and Social Security enlists NDCS’s help to promote the rubella vaccine to parents because of concerns over low take up.

David Heap, NDCS’s Regional Director for the West Midlands reaches the age


A young David Heap, Regional Director for the West Midlands

of 5 but the
local authority refuses to offer him a place in a local mainstream school. Only when his parents threatened to leave him in the Council’s offices was the problem resolved and he started in a local primary school rather than being sent to a residential special school.


The Dept of Health and Social Security agrees to NDCS’s suggestion that specialist diagnostic teams for deaf children be established.


NDCS establishes a club for the siblings of deaf children to recognise the major role they played in the life of deaf children.


NDCS renews its campaign to see the early identification of deafness in children at a conference of parents in Manchester who presented a petition to the Minister for Health Albert Booth. This was a longstanding campaign theme over the next 30 years that came to a successful conclusion when 2006 saw the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme became operating in all areas of the UK.

Money from a Blue Peter appeal funded mobile classrooms equipped with recent technology. They were driven by teachers visiting isolated deaf children.


NDCS organises the biggest ever exhibition of equipment and technology for deaf children accompanied by a discussion paper of Deaf Children and their Hearing Aids.


NDCS introduces its first Use of Hearing Aids course for parents of deaf children.

To raise funds NDCS produces “Christmas with the Stars” record featuring songs sang by Harry Secombe, Max Bygraves and Des O’Connor.

The first issue of NDCS Week was published with the purpose of supporting parents who had set up local groups for families with deaf children.


NDCS appoints a professional advisor on careers to help young deaf people into employment.


There were now 120 groups of parents affiliated to NDCS. Their main preoccupation was dealing with the consequences of reduced public spending plans of the government  and a number had to spearhead a fight to save local provision.  (I will be writing much the same thing when I reach the period  2010-2016).

Darth Vader[1] launched the Deafrienders Scheme and became the first General Deafriender. The scheme ended 5 years later as it was felt that time had moved on deaf children had to be seen to be independent people who choose their own friends.

NDCS also started a study into the particular needs of deaf children in black and minority ethnic communities and deaf children with an additional needs.


NDCS challenges the Dept of Health and Social Security over the by health services requirement that parents should pay the cost of insuring their child’s hearing aids. The Dept stated it opposed this practice but was slow in issuing guidance to local health services on this matter.

The Education Act which set out duties on local authorities to identify, assess and make special provision for children with special educational needs received Royal Assent. NDCS attempted to influence the accompany regulations and guidance. It gained some assurances on the involvement of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in the assessment of a deaf child’s needs.


NDCS received from the government’s Manpower Services Commission (MSC) a “Fit to Work” award. 6 of the 13 staff were disabled. The MSC said “this is one of the smallest organisations ever to be given this award. There is a great deal of competition. It is particularly nice to see a society practising what it preaches”. 


NDCS publishes Undiscovered Deafness to draw attention to the half million children experiencing temporary deafness through otitis media (glue ear). It attracted a lot of media coverage.

NDCS joins forces with the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf and the British Deaf Association to oppose government proposals to scrap the requirement for Teachers of the Deaf to have a specialist qualification.

[1] Well it was not the real Darth Vader but the actor Dave Prowse (also the green cross code man) who played the role in the Star Wars movie. The real Darth Vader lived on another planet!

Could you help a family struggling with their child’s deafness?

Joanne O'Donnell

Joanne O’Donnell, Everyone Together Project Officer (Parenting)

The Everyone Together project will be recruiting parent/carer volunteers to support our work. Could you spare some time to volunteer with us? Project Officer Joanne O’Donnell explains more:

“The Everyone Together project supports families with a deaf child aged 0-8 years in Scotland. We are committed to building support around deaf children, beginning with the family, and bringing in professionals and the wider community.

If you remember back to when your child was diagnosed, chances are you remember that feeling of being alone. By recruiting parent volunteers, we hope that Everyone Together will provide families with emotional support from someone who has been in their position. There is nothing more encouraging than knowing someone has been through a similar situation and reached the other side.”

Interested? Read on to find out more.

What will I be asked to do?

We have a number of volunteer opportunities and we would work with you to identify the best role for you. Tasks undertaken by volunteers include:

  • Talking to parents with a newly identified deaf child. Sharing your experiences and explaining about the support we can offer;
  • Giving talks to parents and professionals at workshops, courses and conferences;
  • Speaking to the media about your family, our charity and our services;
  • Supporting a parent/carer to attend one of our events by accompanying them or meeting them at the event.

How much time will I be asked to commit?

It’s up to you – let us know what you can commit to, and we will let you know which opportunities might best suit your availability.

What support will I receive?

You will receive training and ongoing support in your role. Your achievements and contribution will be celebrated through an annual recognition event and we will reimburse all out of pocket expenses incurred through your volunteer role.

I would like to volunteer

Great! The first step is to let us know you are interested. You can do this by emailing or by contacting Joanne on 0141 880 7044/ 07837 056 267. We will provide you with more information and an application form.

If you live elsewhere in the UK and would like to know about other volunteering opportunities at National Deaf Children’s Society, please email or call 0121 234 9829. Alternatively, you can find current volunteering opportunities on our website.

Make 2017 the year you become an NDCS volunteer.

A Day in the Life of a Parenting Facilitator


Anne Frances Mason

Anne-Frances Mason, Raising a Deaf Child Facilitator

Think parenting courses are all naughty steps and no fun? Think again, as Anne-Frances, one of our fabulous facilitators explains…

Many of you will have heard of ‘Raising a Deaf Child’, the parenting course designed and endorsed by National Deaf Children’s Society. For those of you who haven’t, allow me to provide you with a sneaky snapshot of the course.

My background in social work means I have experience of delivering a range of parenting classes over the years. But sorry, I have come to the conclusion that this practice of running participants through programmes from A-Z often leaves people with more questions than answers.

My current role as a Raising a Deaf Child facilitator could not be more different and here’s why:

The shape changes. The sessions might be in workshop form, a one-off weekend, regular blocks of short, sharp sessions or a taster slotted into a special event.

The sequence changes. We might begin at the end and skip backwards. Why? Because parents prioritise the topics and ‘Everyone Together’ listens.

At the heart of my job as facilitator is my duty and privilege to remind every parent and carer of a deaf child that they are the expert when it comes to their child. Parents sometimes forget this. But please don’t forget that we are all different and it is vital that we celebrate the world of differences for each deaf child.

Finally, it is only fair to make mention of the secret ingredients that have made the Raising a Deaf Child a success. Apart from the food, the fun, the ice-breakers and the guest speakers, there is that parent sitting opposite who has experienced almost exactly the same as the parent who is climbing the walls. They’ve been there, they know, and their insight is passed on. Peer power in action.

But don’t just take it from me, come and see for yourself!

The ‘Everyone Together’ project is funded by Big Lottery Fund, and supports families with a deaf child aged 0-8 years in Scotland. To find out more about our 2017 workshops, visit the Everyone Together events page.

How to…stop a hearing impairment unit closing

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Officer

What would you do if the hearing impairment unit your child attends was in danger of closing? I’m guessing most parents would do something very similar to Wokingham parent Faye Gilbert….

Faye contacted us back in June about the HIU, based at Emmbrook Infant School, closing. Faye’s son Rhys goes to the unit and was really thriving at the school.

Although the council were allowing all the children currently in the unit to stay until they moved on to Junior school, Faye thought it was important that deaf children in the future also have the opportunity to study in an HIU, if that’s what’s best for them.

So, how was the unit saved? Faye did a number of things to persuade the council to change their minds. Most of them aren’t new or difficult but they did need time and persistence to make the difference. But happily anyone can get involved in a campaign like this…

  1. Tell people about the problem and get others that are affected on board – one of the first things Faye did was start a petition on She got nearly 2,000 supporters to sign the petition – which certainly got the attention of the council and the local media.
  1. Make sure the people who make the decision know about your campaign – the best way to do this is to speak to the media because bad media coverage is rarely ignored by councils. We can help with getting coverage and preparing for an interview but journalists almost always want to speak to someone affected by the changes.pester power
  1. Don’t stop! – decision-makers might assume that you don’t have the stamina to keep going when it looks like the odds are against you, but we all know that pester power works! Email the council and encourage as many people as you can to do the same. It doesn’t take many emails from local people for a council to starting doubting whether they are doing the right thing. Local councillors are elected by local people every four years so they will be nervous about upsetting people by making a bad decision. If you don’t get the response you want, keep writing until you do.

Although we supported Faye to win her campaign we can only ever do so much. We always need families of deaf children on board with an

y campaign and usually decision-makers give more weight to the views of deaf children and their families. There are a few things we can help local campaigners with:

  • emailing local parents to tell them about the issue to amplify your voice
  • joining campaigners at council meetings and help you to prepare for meetings
  • working out when key decisions will be made and who can influence the decision
  • writing letters to the council about their legal responsibilities to deaf children
  • helping you to get media coverage and to prepare for an interview
  • finding evidence about the progress made by deaf children in the local area to add weight to you arguments.

But…we can only do this if parents and those working with deaf children tell us about problems or concerns as early as possible. You can email or call our helpline on 0808 800 8880 – with any information that you think is worrying.

NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 1


Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

It’s UK Disability History Month so I thought I’d take the opportunity to outline key events in the history of the National Deaf Children’s Society. Over the past 75 years, tremendous progress has been made in attitudes towards deafness. However, in writing this blog I couldn’t help but think there is still a remarkable similarity between the issues faced by deaf children of the 20th Century and today.

On the 15th December 1944 a group of parents of deaf children met in London because they were concerned over the impact of the Education Act 1944 on their children’s education. They formed the Society of St John of Beverley (who became the patron saint of the “deaf and dumb” in the eleventh century)  whose aim was to “to further provision of full modern education for all deaf children in England as originally accorded to hearing children”.   After a short while it changed its name to the Deaf Children’s Society (DCS).

From these small beginnings developed the National Deaf Children’s Society, serving the UK as well as supporting deaf children in Asia, Africa and South America.  Below I have highlighted some key events in our history between 1944 and 1964.


David Jackson identified as deaf at the age of 6 months. David said his mother tried to cure it by placing brown paper soaked in vinegar on his ears and serving him a diet of fish and carrots. David said “people would try anything in those days”.


DCS establishes a Teacher of the Deaf training bursary scheme and starts a campaign for the training of as many teachers as possible.


DCS proposes that public health services should conduct hearing tests on children at an early age to ensure early identification and support. This campaign was finally won in 2006 when new born hearing screening was fully rolled out across the UK.

DCS publishes its first information leaflet for parents “If your child is deaf” and sets up courses for parents


DCS lobbies the Department for Education to ensure teachers receive a salary while training to be Teachers of the Deaf.



DCS links with groups in Glasgow and the Midlands  and then one in the NW of England. Over the next 10 years more and more parent groups are established throughout the UK and establish links with the DCS.

DCS produces a circular on research suggesting a link between German measles in pregnant women and deafness in babies.


The Minster for Education agrees to fund the training of Teachers of the Deaf. The Society’s first campaign win!

At this time around 450 deaf children in London were out of school and in need of a school place.


DCS takes up the case of a young deaf girl who spent years in a mental health institution before she was found to be deaf and not “disturbed”. DCS challenged the way the Ministry of Health identified children with a “mental deficiency”. 


DCS suggests the shortage of school places for deaf children could be alleviated by attaching a class for deaf children to a grammar school. The Friends School in Saffron Walden agreed to be a pilot making the concept of hearing impairment units (specialist classrooms for deaf children attached to mainstream schools) a reality.

Two children learning to use hearing aid equipment


The DCS commences evening courses for parents lasting 6 weeks on topics including supporting deaf children to read and develop speech and language.

The first quarterly newsletter for parents was produced. It continues over 50 years later in the form of NDCS’s Families Magazine.

DCS make access to technical training a priority as a step to work. A pilot is established with Regent Street Polytechnic for 4 deaf students.

DCS presses the Ministry of Labour to give disability resettlement officers and youth employment officers full information on the employment of deaf young people.


DCS offers holiday weeks for families in caravans which were very popular.

DCS is concerned about the absence of books for deaf children. It offered £50 to authors to write books and guaranteed the publisher £500 to ensure publication.


Ann William’s daughter was diagnosed as being deaf. Ann said she was told by the consultant that her daughter would never amount to anything and would need to be sent away to a special school which Ann refused to do. She was not given any information on any communication method apart from speech so the family had no choice.

First debate on the Education of Deaf Children in the House of Commons opened by Michael Stewart, Labour MP for Fulham. 


The quarterly newsletter transformed into a magazine for members called “Talk”. 12,000 copies are distributed to families.

The society offers £25 grants to parents to help them pay for their children’s hearing aids.

Deaf Children's Society Talk magazine


Parent groups from all over the country meet and form the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). They challenge the rigid approach to teaching methods for deaf children and reject the prevailing notion that a child who doesn’t speak is a failure: “A deaf child with no means of communication at all reflects a lack of flexibility of our education provision. Any method of teaching deaf children must ensure that each deaf child is given a means of communication” 


NDCS establishes the Commonwealth Society to look into the welfare of deaf children outside the UK. Its first task was to raise funds.


NDCS establishes the Deaf Children’s League of Service, proving volunteering opportunities for deaf children, encouraging them to be self-reliant and help others such as old people.


NDCS responds to equipment requests and loans 38 Auditory Training Units to teachers to help children use their residual hearing. NDCS hoped the loans would convince local authorities to provide the equipment.

NDCS also provides 8 buses for use by local parent groups for deaf children’s excursions. By 1967 there were 17 buses on long term loan. It included one for the Manchester University Survey Team which was conducting research into the social adjustment of deaf teenagers.

250,000 copies of ‘What do you know about deafness’ were circulated as part of a deaf awareness campaign featured in newspapers, radio and TV.

NDCS bus


NDCS’s campaign against the use of the term “deaf and dumb” meets with a measure of success when the Ministry of Health stops using the term “dumb”.

The Queen and Queen mother attend NDCS’s 20th birthday party (a reception at the Mansion House) joined by members of all 29 regional parent groups across the UK.

What happens next?

For what happened next read my blog on 1964 to 1984 to be published next week.