Imagine a world where nearly two thirds of children were leaving school without getting good GCSEs. Parents would rightly be furious that their child hadn’t got the right support at school. There would be outrage and a clamour for urgent action.
But when it comes to deaf children, this is the reality that we face. The latest figures from the government, published today show that just 36% of deaf children achieved the government’s benchmark for GCSE success, compared to 65% of their hearing friends.
This is happening despite the fact that deafness is not in itself a learning disability. At the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), we strongly believe that, providing that the right support is provided from the start, deaf children can achieve just as well as anyone else.
But in too many areas that support is being denied to deaf children. We regularly hear from families who are concerned and anxious for their child’s future. For example, a mother of 16-year-old Jodie told us:
“Jodie has never received any kind of formal support with her education. Time and again I’ve raised concerns and begged for help, knowing how badly she was struggling and failing to keep up with her classmates and that when crunch time came she’d be falling off the edge of a cliff.
“If Jodie had received the extra help that I was fighting for, who knows what she could have achieved and where life could have taken her.”
That so many deaf children are being set up to fail is a tragedy. But worse still, is the very real possibility that in coming years, the situation will get worse, not better. Recent government initiatives to support children with special educational needs and disabilities will come to nothing if we don’t recognise the realities on the ground.
For example, a recent report issued by NDCS on behalf of the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (Cride) raises serious concerns that deaf children will have less access to specialist support in future years. It found that the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf – who provide expert support to deaf children – is actually going down, falling below 1,000 for the first time last year. A retirement crisis is also looming – over half of all Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.
All of this is happening at a time when local authorities are cutting back on the support that deaf children need, leaving families desperate for support and worried for their child’s future.
It’s heart-breaking to see deaf children like Jodie being failed because they haven’t received the right support. But unless we see urgent action from the Government to address these failing local authorities, we are likely to hear more stories of heartbreak from parents of deaf children.
This is not the future that any parent wants for their child.
This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.