Tasneem is the mother of Aisha who is currently in 6th year of a mainstream high school in Scotland. Tasneem recently overturned the decision to have her daughter’s teacher of the deaf (ToD) hours of support cut and shares her experience to inspire other parents.
I was so happy when Aisha obtained three A’s and a B in her 5th year exams and was in no doubt that the 5 hours a week support she received from her ToD contributed to her success. So you can imagine my shock when Aisha told me she had not seen her ToD when she began 6th year. A phone call from the school then confirmed that Aisha would now be receiving support once a fortnight.
I was shocked by this and couldn’t understand how Aisha could go from requiring 5 hours of support a week to only once a fortnight. Aisha was used to the support she was receiving so this was a big difference for her. Her initial reaction was to panic. She asked me questions like, “how am I going to cope?”, “who will explain things to me?” She was also upset because she was attached to her ToD, who also supports her wee sister, so she saw her as a friend.
“I began feeling nervous about challenging the decision…”
I am not a confrontational person but I realised I had to do something for my daughter’s sake. I immediately attempted to set up a meeting with the school and the head of support services, which proved far more difficult than I had imagined. Despite speaking to the ToD on the phone, I had to arrange the meeting with the head through the school. This delayed progress and meant I was continually chasing up the school. I found this lack of communication between the school and the support services was a real barrier for me. Once the school had eventually set up the meeting, I began feeling nervous about challenging the decision. I didn’t know what information I would need which lead to me question whether I was doing the right thing. Maybe I was overreacting? What if the support services were right, surely they should know what is best for Aisha? But I knew that my daughter would not be getting the support she needed so I started asking myself, what are my rights and what should I expect from the school and support services?
“I knew I had someone on my side”
Thankfully the National Deaf Children’s Society really helped me with this, explaining my rights under various laws including the Additional Support for Learning Act and Equalities Act. They also provided me with a comprehensive list of what support Aisha should receive and accompanied me to the meeting, so I knew I had someone on my side.
At the meeting the ToD explained that once a fortnight support had been decided upon in line with the Matrix guidelines they used, and that they are now regarded as a consultancy agency, not peripatetic. With the help of the National Deaf Children’s Society I argued that this was unfair as a mainstream teacher cannot provide one-to-one service in a class of 30. It also puts pressure on the deaf child to seek out class teachers during break/lunch time to ask questions which is totally inconvenient. This also requires confidence from the child to go out their way to ask these questions. The ToD asked me what level of support I would be happy with and I suggested 3 hours a week. I argued that Aisha had done so well in her exams due to the support she was receiving. I stuck to my guns and after a lot of passing the buck between the support services and the school, I was eventually successful in overturning the decision.
“I would also urge parents to take advantage of the support offered by the National Deaf Children’s Society…”
Given my experience I would urge parents to challenge decisions that affect their deaf children. Some parents may not be aware of exactly how much support their child is getting in school and some may not be aware of cuts in this support. I personally know parents who have not been told about cuts. My advice for parents is to find out who their child’s ToD is and what their role is. I was even unclear on this. I would also urge parents to take advantage of the support offered by the National Deaf Children’s Society and within their child’s school. It made a big difference to have someone from the National Deaf Children’s Society and pastoral care within the school actually attend the meetings with me. Especially because you know you are being supported by someone who knows what your child is entitled to. I think parents need to be made more aware that the National Deaf Children’s Society can accompany them to meetings of this nature and can provide information and advice on their rights.
Click here to find out more about children’s educational rights in Scotland.