What are the parties promising to do to help deaf children in education?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Last week, we took a look at the government’s record over the past five years. This week, we’ve been having a rummage through the manifestos from each of the main political parties to find out what are each of the main parties promising to do – if elected – in relation to education, health and welfare and how might this impact on deaf children? This blog kicks off with education.

Funding

The Conservatives have said they will protect funding for schools on a per pupil basis. This means that, if the number of pupils go up, schools shouldn’t lose out. But it also means that schools might get less money in real terms if inflation goes up. It also means that funding for early years education and post-16 is not protected.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they will protect all education funding in real terms. This means that if inflation goes up, early year settings, schools and post-16 colleges shouldn’t lose out. But, if the number of pupils goes up – which it is expected to do in schools by 7% – then education settings won’t get any extra money to cover this increase.

The Green party has said it will restore education funding to 2010 levels in real terms.

UKIP make no specific pledges on education spending but their manifesto indicates they wish to reduce government spending overall.

Over the past five years, schools funding has been protected by the Government. However, as the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign has found, this protection hasn’t been carried through at a local level. We’re disappointed that none of the manifestos contain any real pledges that would ensure that local authorities will be held to account if they fail to protect funding for vulnerable learners, such as deaf children.

Special educational needs

Over the past five years, the Government introduced significant changes to the special educational needs (SEN) framework (via the Children and Families Act 2014). None of the parties appear to be proposing any major changes to this new framework. Below we set out where SEN gets mentioned in the manifestos:

  • The Conservatives make no new specific pledges in relation to SEN but highlight that they have created 2,200 more special schools places through their free schools programme, introduced a new coordinated assessment process to determine a child or young person’s needs (known as Education, Health and Care needs assessments) and have asked Ofsted to formally inspect local areas for their effectiveness in fulfilling their duties to children with SEN and disabilities.
  • The Liberal Democrats have pledged to improve the identification of SEN and disability at the earliest possible stage. They have also pledged to enshrine the UN Convention on Rights of Child into law. This could potentially provide deaf children with a range of new legal rights.
  • Labour have said they will improve training for mainstream teachers on SEN and disability.
  • The Green party have said that every disabled child should have a right to mainstream education. They also support a key role for local authorities in planning, admissions policy and equality of access for children with SEN
  • UKIP state that they will reverse any policy of closing special schools.

NDCS is keen to see Ofsted take a role in inspecting local authority education services for deaf children to make sure deaf children are getting the support they need. A consultation is expected after the election – but it’s not yet clear if Ofsted will take a more detailed look at provision for deaf children, or just look at SEN in general.

Post 16

The Liberal Democrats appear to be the only party to make reference to Disabled Students’ Allowance – which provides support to deaf students in university and which the current Government is proposing to cut back. The Liberal Democrats pledge to ensure students with disabilities receive appropriate support in their university studies, and to review the impact of any recent changes.

The Labour party disability mini manifesto indicates that they will ensure that young disabled people have the same chances as non-disabled people to study for the vocational or degree qualifications.

The above is a very general summary of the pledges and we’ve only highlighted those that we think are most directly relevant to deaf children. We’ve included links to the manifestos above if you’d like more information about what each of the parties are proposing.

Education is devolved to the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales so we haven’t covered pledges from parties in these nations in this blog. The below websites have more information on what these parties are pledging:

Don’t forget, if you want to find out more about what the parties are proposing, you can ask your prospective parliamentary candidates. They need your vote and hopefully will be responsive to any questions you might have! Ask your candidates what they know about deaf children and call on them to protect the services that they rely on in the next Parliament.

The Your Next MP website has information on the candidates in your area and our website has more information on the election, including a detailed election factsheet.

 

Education for deaf children – a review of the past five years

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Apparently, there’s a big general election coming up on the 7th May. One of the factors that voters may be taking into account is the coalition government’s record over the past five years. But in terms of support for deaf children, what do we know about what’s changed?

With this in mind, our next few blogs will explore a few key areas in relation to deaf children. Starting with education:

1. Have deaf children achieved better outcomes?

Yes and no. Because the Government has changed the way that they calculate their GCSE figures on how many deaf children achieve 5 GCSEs (including English and Maths) at grades A* to C (or “5 good GCSEs”), it’s difficult to make like for like comparisons over the past five years.

Back in 2010, 36% of deaf children achieved 5 good GCSEs. In 2014, the same figure was 36.3% under the government’s new methodology. So, on that basis, deaf children aren’t doing that much better. However, if the 2014 figures had been calculated using the same methodology as in previous years, the figure would have been 40%.

Between 2007 and 2010, the GCSE figures (also under the old methodology), the number of deaf children achieving 5 good GCSEs rose from 27% to 36%.

A key NDCS campaign is to close the gap in attainment between deaf and other children. The figures suggest a slight narrowing of the gap from 46% to around 42-44% since 2010. NDCS would hope to be seeing a much faster narrowing of the gap than that shown over the past five years.

NDCS’s website features more analysis of the government attainment figures

2. Have deaf children been getting the support they need?

The Government protected school funding for the whole of the five years and in 2014/15, the Government increased what’s known as the ‘high needs’ budget for those who need more support. They have also sent a clear signal to local authorities that they expect them to protect funding for the most vulnerable learners.

A less known detail is that the Government allowed funding for services for deaf children and other children with special educational needs to be kept by the local authority. The alternative – where schools were giving a slice of the pie and then expected to buy back support – could have led to the fragmentation of services so this was an important policy decision.

Disappointingly though, in our view, the Government has not done enough to ensure that local authorities do indeed protect funding for vulnerable learners. We know from the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign, that funding hasn’t been protected at a local level, or at least in relation to deaf children. We’ve had to campaign hard to prevent cuts to vital services for deaf children across the country.

There has also been a decline in the number of Teachers of the Deaf. Figures from the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education suggest a 3% decline in Teachers of the Deaf last year, with the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf falling below 1,000 in England last year for the first time. This is despite the fact that that the number of deaf children has not gone down and that there is a still a significant number who are not achieving good outcomes.

3. Has the support that deaf children been receiving been good enough?

A big priority for the Government over the past five years has been to reform the special educational needs (SEN) framework, which outlines how deaf and other children should be supported to achieve their potential. This culminated in the Children and Families Act 2014 and new statutory guidance, the SEN and Disability Code of Practice. Key changes include:

  • A new requirement to publish a Local Offer, setting out what support will be available locally
  • More rights for young people over the age of 16, with a new joined up 0 to 25 system
  • New explicit principles around ‘co-production’ and involvement of parents and young people

More information about these changes can be found in the NDCS SEN reform FAQ.

These changes came into force in September 2014. The Government have been among the first to admit that it will be some time before these changes start to be felt in day to day practice and NDCS has yet to see a fall in demand for support from parents of deaf children to help them resolve issues concerning their child’s education.

There are a range of views over whether these changes were a good idea or not. NDCS was disappointed that the key question of how the Government would ensure that local authorities would actually follow these new laws was left until rather late in the day. Ofsted have now been invited to consider how local areas will be scrutinised for the quality of their provision but there is still considerable uncertainty over how Ofsted will do this and whether they will really look in detail into the quality of services of deaf children. A consultation is expected after the election.

One final area where the Government has taken action is around acoustics in schools. Prior to 2010, following a big NDCS campaign, the previous Government committed to a number of steps to improve the quality of acoustics in schools. These largely fell by the wayside when the new Government came into power and there were fears that acoustics regulations would be scrapped in a “bonfire of regulations”. Fortunately, the Government decided to keep them, sending a signal that schools should ensure they have the best possible listening environments. NDCS would still like the Government to go further, in introducing mandatory acoustic testing of new schools and ensuring that early year settings also have good acoustics too.

Trying to do justice to five years of education policy in a single blog is a challenge and the above does not attempt to cover everything or to touch on wider education changes that impact on all children, such as on curriculum and exams. We hope it provides some food for thought though. Let us know what you think about our summary evaluation by leaving a comment below.

5 things we’ve recently learnt about deaf children and Teachers of the Deaf in the UK from the CRIDE report

KMcQuaid photo

Kelsey McQuaid, Projects Officer

Every year the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), survey local authorities to find out about education provision for deaf children across the UK. CRIDE was developed in 2010 in conjunction with NDCS, National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP), British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD), academic institutions, special schools and Heads of Services.

Here are five things we’ve learnt from the most recent report:

  1. There are at least 48,125 deaf children in the UK. This is an increase of 16% since 2011 and 7% since 2013. There could be a number of reasons for this increase, such as changes in demography, an increase in the number of deaf children or perhaps services have become better at recording information about deaf children.
  2. The number of Teachers of the Deaf has decreased from 1,488 in 2013 to 1,433 in 2014, a 3% decline. In England, the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf has fallen below 1,000 for the first time. CRIDE is especially concerned that the number of Teachers of the Deaf is decreasing given that there is also a suggested increase in the number of deaf children.
  3. Only 9% of Teachers of the Deaf had a level 3 qualification in British Sign Language (BSL), which is usually required as the minimum for anyone working directly with deaf children who communicate in BSL.
  4. 5% of Teachers of the Deaf in resource provisions are not qualified as Teachers of the Deaf nor are in training to become one. In England, this would be regarded as unlawful – the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice states that teachers of classes of deaf children should be qualified Teachers of the Deaf.
  5. Many Teachers of the Deaf may be retiring in coming years. We found that over 530 Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to15 years, amounting to 51% of qualified Teachers of the Deaf. CRIDE is concerned that there are not enough new Teachers of the Deaf to replace those about to retire.

NDCS will continue to use the data collected from CRIDE to provide an evidence base for our campaigns and to lobby politicians for change so that our vision of a world without barriers for every deaf child can be realised.

For more information about the CRIDE survey and the results, go to www.ndcs.org.uk/CRIDE

 

NEW Devon CCG abandons plans to ration hearing aids! Four reasons why this decision would have breached the CCG’s statutory duties.

Image of Sarah Collinson, NDCS Regional Director for the South West

Sarah Collinson, Regional Director for the South West

The North East and West (NEW) Devon CCG has confirmed that it has abandoned its decision to ration deaf patients over the age of 18 to just one NHS hearing aid. The policy to restrict hearing aids had been announced in an ‘Urgent and Necessary Measures’ notice issued in December and was intended to affect all adult hearing aid users in the NEW Devon CCG area; the only exceptions would be people with additional sensory disabilities and patients with conditions such as autism ‘where social cues may be particularly important.’

As NDCS supports young deaf people into early adulthood and campaigns for all deaf children and young people to have access to good quality audiology care, the NEW Devon CCG’s moves called for a swift response, not only because it was due to be introduced with immediate effect, but also because other cash-strapped CCGs might be considering similar measures and would be watching the Devon situation closely.

With local campaign action by NDCS members, regional TV news coverage and letters to the CCG and local MPs, we pulled out all the stops to try to convince the CCG to think again. Along with pressure from Ben Bradshaw MP and Action on Hearing Loss, our action seemed to pay off, with the CCG announcing shortly before Christmas that it would suspend the decision to ration hearing aids until the issue had been considered by its Clinical Policy Committee (CPC).

When I discovered that the CCG’s Governance Committee was to look at the issue again in early January, I sent a second letter to the CCG’s Chair outlining our concerns with the proposed policy and highlighting a number of key areas where it would seem to breach the CCG’s statutory duties under the NHS Constitution and the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA). This additional pressure has borne fruit, as just a few days after looking at the issue again, the CCG has announced a complete U-turn, with the rationing of hearing aids now entirely shelved.

In case other CCG’s might have been thinking of restricting adults’ hearing aids in this way, it’s worth highlighting the main reasons why they would be wrong to do so, as I pointed out to the NEW Devon CCG:

  • The CCG is duty-bound under the NHS Constitution and the HSCA to promote equality through the services that it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health are not keeping pace with the rest of the population. Deaf young adults are already significantly more likely to suffer mental health problems and face higher barriers to education; deaf people are four times more likely to be unemployed that hearing people. Any measure that will compromise their ability to use their hearing as effectively as possible will exacerbate these risks and disadvantage them further.
  • Patients have the right to expect local decisions on funding of treatments to be made rationally following a proper consideration of the evidence. NEW Devon claimed in the Urgent and Necessary Measures notice issued in December that ‘Evidence suggests that correcting hearing in the second ear … is far less cost-effective even though people derive some benefit from it.’ Yet, for 20 years or more, binaural aiding has been universally accepted as the most appropriate and effective treatment for the majority of cases of bilateral hearing loss. Not only would we dispute the apparent cost-savings to be made for the CCG, but we can’t accept that one hearing aid is as good as two. In fact, there is evidence that bilaterally deaf hearing aid users are disadvantaged if they have to rely on one-sided hearing. Hearing with just one ear or one hearing aid leads to problems for the brain processing sounds, understanding speech in background noise and localising the source of a sound.
  • The NHS Constitution also gives patients the right to be given information about the risks of treatment options available. The CCG’s Urgent and Necessary Measures notice didn’t mention the risks of one-sided aiding for people who are deaf in both ears. This would have to be taken into account in any comparative cost-benefit analysis of providing one hearing aid instead of two. Quite apart from the heightened risk of mental health problems and other comorbidities, there is also a risk of monaural aiding of bilaterally deaf people doing harm to the patient by causing non-reversible auditory deprivation to the unaided side. In a significant number of patients, auditory deprivation has been found to be significant and irreversible, and it isn’t possible to predict which patients are likely to be affected in this way.
  • The Health and Social Care Act stipulates that the CCG must make arrangements to ensure that individuals to whom the services are being provided are involved in the development and consideration of proposals where the proposals would have an impact on how services are delivered or the range of health services available. To our knowledge, the CCG conducted no consultation with patients and other stakeholders on possible hearing aid rationing prior to issuing the Urgent and Necessary Measures notice in December. The lack of transparency around the Quality and Equality Impact Assessment that should have been undertaken in advance of making any decisions on this issue  is very worrying, particularly given the substantial negative impacts that hearing aid rationing would have on large numbers of deaf people  across Devon.

We are relieved at NDCS the restriction on provision of NHS hearing aids has been abandoned in Devon, at least for now. However, we will have to remain vigilant going forward, not only in Devon but also nationally, in case other CCGs seek to address financial shortfalls with similarly crude and potentially harmful rationing measures.

Campaign win! Minister recommends the inspection of SEN services!

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

We are pleased to announce some Christmas cheer! Following a long-running campaign from NDCS, the Government has today announced that they are recommending the future inspection of local SEN services!

Many deaf children rely on support from local authority services for children with special educational needs (SEN). Currently, the quality of support that these children get from visiting Teachers of the Deaf and local authority SEN services has received virtually no scrutiny from Ofsted inspectors at all. It has been up to parents to police these services and report any issues.

Today the Department for Education released a statement saying that the Minister:

“has today also invited Ofsted to formally inspect local areas on their effectiveness in fulfilling their new duties. They will do this along with the Care Quality Commission and a local authority officer.

It is hoped that robust and rigorous inspections will ensure that parents and young people receive as much information as possible about what is being offered.”

NDCS has long been calling for greater scrutiny of these services as part of the Stolen Futures campaign. We’ve argued that it’s easier for local authorities to cut services for deaf children if they know they won’t be held to account for the impact of these cuts by Ofsted. Getting Ofsted to inspect services was one of the key asks in the Stolen Futures parliamentary debate last year – which only came about because 51,000 campaigners signed a petition calling for a debate.

However the hard work is not over yet. We still need to see the detail of how the new Ofsted inspections will work and make sure that proper attention is paid to services for deaf children. We won’t stop until local authority services for deaf children are properly held to account for failing to close the attainment gap between deaf and hearing children.

We will continue to keep you updated. In the meantime, we’d like to thank all of our members for their persistence and patience in campaigning on this issue. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

Husna’s Story: Why I’m campaigning to save the Overland Day Nursery

Parent Campaigner

Husna Begum, Parent Campaigner

Hello, my name is Husna Begum. I am a mother of a deaf child and I am also the chair for the Tower Hamlets Deaf Children’s Society (THDCS). My son Hamza was born with profound sensi-neurol hearing loss. He underwent surgery for bilateral cochlear implants aged 17 months. Previous to this, he had no access to sound whatsoever. Hamza is now 4 and attends a mainstream school with a Deaf resource Base, and is doing extremely well. His speech is coming along fantastically and so is his range of sign language. It’s when you see your child develop and improve day by day that you feel proud as a parent. You feel as though there is hope after all. I have had fantastic support from the Teachers of the Deaf in Tower Hamlets who have stood by and supported me and my son throughout his early years.

I became Chair for Tower Hamlets Deaf Children’s Society in September 2014. I can honestly say that it has been challenging and exciting at the same time. Since September the THDCS have had a lot going on. We organised our annual deaf picnic, which we held at Mile End Children’ Play park. The children and their families had a great time and we had a very good turnout. We had an entertainer, bake sale and much more. Our picnic event was written about in the East End Life newspaper. I have attended training days organised by the NDCS to make sure I am able to fulfil my role. However becoming Chair has not always been a happy event. We were shocked to learn that Overland day Nursery was under threat of closure/privatization by Tower Hamlets Local Authority. Overland day nursery is a unique nursery. It’s the only one that provides a resource base for the deaf/partially hearing children in the borough. The nursery provides the much needed early intervention to help support and maximise the children’s listening and speech and language development.

Image of Tower Hamlets Deaf Children's Society

Tower Hamlets Deaf Children’s Society Committee (Husna centre) Image courtesy of Tower Hamlets Deaf Children’s Society

Overland day nursery was attended by my son Hamza at the age of 22 months. During his time at the nursery he made a huge improvement in his listening and communication skills. He had picked up on a vast array of sign language and was able to differentiate between different types of sounds. He became a confident little boy and started to use speech. I was overwhelmed with his improvement, a child who never spoke, started to call me mum. As a parent it was the most memorable and beautiful moment. The staff at Overland are an invaluable asset. They are specialised in all things deaf related, British sign Language and knowing how to deal with hearing aids and cochlear implants. They provide support and empower the deaf children with a sense of belonging in the deaf community and integrating them with their hearing peers. The nursery is purposely built to meet the needs of the deaf children. The rooms are soundproofed and have good acoustics. All this is needed to maximise their listening potential. In a deaf child’s life this is a very sensitive time when their brain is ready to learn. If these learning opportunities are missed it will be even harder to learn these skills later on in life. My son had the best start in life and was given the opportunity to access early years support. I know that he can achieve anything. However, this may not be a possibility to others if the nursery is taken away.

THDCS have been attending meetings and protests to help stop the proposal from going ahead.

As part of our ongoing campaign I have started a petition, I hope you will show your support for this vital service and sign.

Thank you.

What does the reshuffle mean for deaf children?

Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

With Jeremy Hunt remaining as Health Secretary, the headline-grabbing Cabinet move announced yesterday for deaf children was in Education. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, was replaced by Nicky Morgan. The big question is what this might mean for deaf children?

We are unaware of any personal connection that Morgan has to deafness, whereas Gove had a deaf adoptive sister growing up and a mother who was a Teacher of the Deaf. This meant that Gove always had some interest and familiarity in the issue of childhood deafness. Morgan has previously asked questions of ministers on deaf issues, but otherwise there is a question mark over her familiarity with deafness.

Michael Gove at an NDCS event in 2008

Michael Gove at an NDCS parliamentary event in 2008

What can we expect from the Department for Education moving forward? There will be a continued focus on SEN reform. There are positive intentions here, but will it lead to better outcomes for deaf children? We are concerned it won’t unless there is a proper focus on accountability within the system.

We can’t ignore also the impact of cuts. Through our Stolen Futures campaign, we have interacted frequently with local government. Too often, cuts to services are happening at a local level. The Department for Education have said that they have protected the budget, but it’s clear that this hasn’t been backed up by action.

Over the past few years, we have seen a trend of improving attainment for deaf children and young people. With 43% of deaf children achieving five good GCSEs compared to 70% of children with no identified special education needs, there is still a lot that needs to be done. Action is still needed from the government. Let’s hope Nicky Morgan can deliver.