How well are deaf children doing in primary schools in England?

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

This blog looks at the Government’s data on the attainment of pupils in primary schools where a “hearing impairment” is their main type of special education need (SEN) and where they have either a statement of SEN or receive additional specialist support.

It is important to note that children are very dependent on their hearing to learn. Having a hearing loss therefore presents significant learning challenges to the child and those who teach and support their education.

However, early identification of a hearing loss, good levels of support from parents and professionals and effective use of hearing technology can reduce the disadvantages. Indeed recently we have seen a significant improvement in the attainment of deaf children.

Attainment in the final year of primary school (Year 6)

The table below shows the attainment of deaf children in the Standard Assessment Tests. It shows the percentage of pupils attaining Level 4 (referred to as expected levels) in reading, writing and maths. The good news is that the proportion of deaf children achieving Level 4 in all three subjects has improved significantly over the 2 years. Thus, although there is still a gap in attainment with other children that needs to be closed, there are signs that it is narrowing.

Proportion of children achieving expected level in reading, writing and mathematics

Year Deaf children All children
2013 49% 75%
2012 44% 74%
2011 36% 67%

The next table looks at attainment levels in reading, writing and spelling, punctuation and grammar. It shows an improvement in attainment. However, there remains a significant gap with other pupils. The table also illustrates the need to pay particular attention to teaching deaf children spelling, punctuation and grammar and developing their writing skills.

Proportion of children attaining expect level in reading, writing and spelling, grammar and punctuation (SPAG)

  Deaf children All children
Year Reading Writing SPAG Reading Writing SPAG
2013 65% 58% 49% 86% 83% 74%
2012 62% 52% NA 87% 81% NA

 There are also improvements in the performance of deaf children in maths and the attainment gap with all children is gradually closing.

Proportion of children achieving expected level for mathematics

Year Deaf children All children
2013 66% 85%
2012 57% 84%

 What should parents do if they are worried about their deaf child’s progress or attainment levels in primary school?

 It is important to remember that like hearing children, deaf children cover the full range of skills and abilities. Also remember your child’s hearing loss could delay your child’s development in a number of key areas. While it is important to have high expectations it is important to recognise that your child may still be making good progress even if they have not reached the expected levels. In some cases children may just fall short of reaching expected levels and will catch up with limited support. Others may require far greater levels of support to make good progress in particular areas of learning.

The school should be paying particular attention to your child’s progress and “take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special education provision is in place”. If your child is not making good progress despite the school’s best endeavours you can make a request for a statutory assessment of your child’s needs and an Education Health and Care Plan. If you child is moving to secondary school it will be important for the new school to know about any issues so that plans can be put in place to provide support for the start of the school year.

Professionals who know your child such as school teachers and your child’s Teacher of the Deaf should be able to offer good advice. However, if parents remain worried and feel their child is not receiving the support to enable them to make good progress, then NDCS is able to offer support and advice. This can be obtained by contacting the NDCS helpline.

NDCS campaigns to ensure every deaf child is able to succeed, for more information and to get involved join our campaigns network.

8 thoughts on “How well are deaf children doing in primary schools in England?

  1. Please note that in a number of states in Australia the government pay for in class captioning or subtitling. The needs of deaf students take a much lower priority here. Nothing we can do but it would be interesting to look at figures in places like Australia ans see how we compare.


    • It would be very interesting but my google searches have failed to identify attainment data for deaf pupils in Australia. It would be difficult to make like for like international comparisons on levels of attainment given the different assessments used in different countries. However, if the data was available it would be able to compare the attainment gap between deaf and other children in each country. If anybody is aware of sources of data please let me know. Brian


  2. Lovely until they employ unqualified teachers of the deaf, who are learning the role whilst on the job and using our children as guinea pigs 😦


    • Both NDCS and the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) have concerns about funding for the future training and supply of qualified Teachers of the Deaf (ToD) as we are aware of recruitment difficulties in some areas. To ensure a supply of qualified ToDs it is necessary to recruit qualified teachers and train them. This training involves working with deaf children. The trainee teacher should be properly supported and supervised by a qualified ToD. Neither NDCS or BATOD would endorse a practice that leaves a trainee ToD unsupported in their work with deaf children. If you feel your child is not receiving support we suggest you speak to the head of your sensory or hearing support service. Alternatively if you want assistance in helping to resolve any issues you have please contact the NDCS helpline 0808 800 8880. Brian


  3. Surely the needs of deaf children are the same in mainstream schools or special schools! It is how the needs are met that are important?


  4. The national data on attainment includes deaf children with statements of special educational needs and those without statements of SEN but still receiving some level of specialist support.
    The vast majority of deaf pupils in special schools have a statement of SEN and are therefore likely to have higher levels of need. So the overall level of need of deaf children in special schools is likely to be high that the overall level of deaf children in mainstream schools. There will of course always be individual exceptions to this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s