Supporting deaf children who speak English as an additional language

Did you know that 13% of deaf children across the UK speak English as an additional language (EAL)?

We know that there’s no reason why deaf children can’t achieve as well as other children, providing they receive the right support, right from the start. However, we know that some groups, such as children who speak EAL, can face more challenges and barriers than others. EAL learners are already learning English while at the same time being taught in classrooms on a daily basis in the language they might not yet have mastered. Being deaf can make this even more challenging.

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

This is borne out by government attainment figures – in 2017, 20% of deaf EAL learners in England achieved a grade 5 in both English and Maths in 2017. This compares to 29% of deaf children generally and 47% of all EAL learners generally.

This is why we’re really excited about a new resource we’ve just launched Supporting the achievement of deaf children who use English as an additional language, as well as an accompanying short top-tips video.

The resources are aimed at Teachers of the Deaf but may also be helpful for EAL coordinators, any other education professional working with deaf EAL learners, as well as parents too.

The new resources set out the challenges that deaf EAL learners face and provides information, practical resources and teaching strategies and ideas on how to address them.

It includes, for example, advice on engaging with families who have children are deaf EAL learners. It addresses head-on a question we get asked a lot around which language families should use with their child – their home language or English only? Most professionals and academics agree that parents of deaf children should use their home language (the one the family is most fluent in) with their child as much as possible. As well as helping the child bond with their parents and family, using the home language also makes acquiring other languages easier when they already have a solid first language in place. Using the home language within the home can also help families share values, traditions and cultural identities.

The resource also includes advice on classroom strategies and assessments, as well a few case studies.

You can watch the video and download the resource by going to www.ndcs.org.uk/eal. The resources have been produced with funding and support from the lovely people at The Bell Foundation, who provide advice and support on children who use EAL. We’d also like to thank Laycock school for being the stars of the new video.

We’ve love to hear your feedback on the new resources – let us know what you think by emailing professionals@ndcs.org.uk.

Deaf young people and the Access to Work scheme

What are our top 5 policy asks?

With the right support put in place, deaf young people can work in almost any job role.

Sally Etchells, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

Some deaf people rely on communication support or assistive technology in order to be able to do their jobs. This support can be funded by the Access to Work grant scheme which is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The scheme is highly valued by deaf young people because it covers the costs of support, above what might normally be expected of an employer to provide through reasonable adjustments. However, we believe the scheme is underutilised and could work better for young deaf people who are making the crucial move from education into work.

We are working to influence the DWP at the moment, and these are the top five things we are asking for.

  1. We want awareness of Access to Work to be raised among deaf young people and the professionals who work with them. Too many people don’t know anything about Access to Work.
  2. We want it to be easier to claim Access to Work if you are a young person organising work experience for yourself.
  3. For short notice interviews and job start dates, we want the DWP to put a temporary support package in place for people, before their Access to Work grant is approved. If this isn’t put in place, it means that many deaf young people have to miss interviews or delay starting their new job.
  4. Deaf people are the biggest group of claimants of Access to Work. We think this justifies the demand for specialist assessors and advisers that understand deafness. At the moment we hear many accounts of poor customer service and a lack of deaf awareness.
  5. We want the DWP to improve data collection around Access to Work. At the moment, we only have figures on the number of deaf claimants, or young claimants, not both!

You can find out more and apply for Access to Work on the DWP website. Any questions? Contact Sally on campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

Young campaigners wanted! Become a member of UK Youth Voice

UK Youth Voice, a group of young campaigners aged 16 to 25 year olds interested in policy and sharing their views as young people, is now recruiting for new members.

Liam O’Dell, Policy and Campaigns Officer – Digital, National Deaf Children’s Society.

Do you know a deaf young person:

  • Aged 16-25?
  • Who is a member of a UK Youth member organisation
  • Who has a big interest in campaigns and representing young people?

If so, tell them about this opportunity to be a member of a UK-wide group of 28 young people representing their local area.

The two-year role will involve attending four weekend meetings a year and working on UK Youth Voice projects. You will also have the opportunity to influence UK Youth as an organisation, as well as national policy.

UK Youth Voice are currently looking for new representatives for the following regions:

  • North West
  • North East
  • Yorkshire & Humber
  • South West
  • South East
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands

They are also working with their national partners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to find young people to represent these nations.

Do you know a deaf young person who might be interested? If you do, then they can fill out a short application form.

If you’re not sure whether your local club is a member of UK Youth, or have any questions, you can contact Hannah Graham on 07455 521883 or email hannah.graham@ukyouth.org.

The application deadline is Friday 1 February. Submissions will be assessed by current members of UK Youth Voice, and you may be invited to have an informal interview.

If successful, the first residential weekend will take place from 26 April to 28 April 2019, so be sure to keep those dates free!

Our Children and Young People Participation team can support deaf young people with their applications. If you know a young person who may be interested, you can email the team at cyp@ndcs.org.uk.

Accessible live music: are venues doing enough for deaf children and young people?

Earlier this week I started my new role at the National Deaf Children’s Society as a Policy and Campaigns Officer. In particular, I’ll be working on all things digital, using social media, e-newsletters and more to engage individuals in campaigns concerning deaf children and young people.

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Liam O’Dell, Policy and Campaigns Officer – Digital, National Deaf Children’s Society

Such a techy job is quite exciting for someone who loves finding out about the latest gadgets and sharing their thoughts on social media – especially about music.

A few times now I’ve been lucky enough to venture down to Glastonbury (both in the scorching sun and the mud), and it’s always been an incredible experience – not least because of its access provisions for deaf people like me.

In one of the many main tents dotted around the site is Deaf Zone. Pop in there and you’ll find out about free sign language lessons for attendees (the sign for ‘Glastonbury’ is the peace sign with both hands, shaking the two fingers from left to right).

What was also impressive was the number of signed and interpreted performances – and these weren’t just reserved for the main Pyramid stage. Events on smaller stages and non-music events were also interpreted to ensure deaf people were able to access as much of the festival as possible.

Recently, sign language interpreters at gigs and concerts have gone viral online – and rightly so – for their creative versions of popular songs (most notably by rap star Eminem). Yet, while some deaf people have had positive experiences, others haven’t been able to access the support they need.

I’ve had my fair share of loud, noisy and inaccessible gigs. A performance by the band Years and Years a few years ago was affected by poor sound levels which drowned out the singer’s voice. I could feel the bass from the stage, but I still felt that sense of isolation which happens when a situation isn’t accessible.

It’s why I’ve often found myself drawn towards the smaller, intimate concert venues – where you’re not too far away from the artist to lipread them or from the stage to hear the show. Swap this for arena shows and festivals, and the more likely I am to feel a little bit confused by it all, with only the big screens to help me understand what’s going on.

Musical events – both big and small – need to be accessible, but there’s also the need for information on booking and venue websites about what services organisations provide for deaf and disabled people. It’s right that this is being recognised with Attitude Is Everything’s Outstanding Attitude Awards, which celebrates those who work towards making live events accessible.

After all, there’s a lot which goes into ‘the perfect gig’, and it’s not just the artist or band which you are going to see. Venue staff who are deaf aware also add to the experience, as does a straightforward and clear ticketing process.

While only organisations can nominate in the Outstanding Attitude Awards, the 10 categories are a great way of opening up a discussion about accessible music. What experiences have you had when it comes to live concerts and festivals? Were they accessible, and which would you nominate?

Radio aids in the early years – your rights

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

We published research last year which shows that radio aids – which provide deaf children with additional amplification – can have a big impact in their early years development. In particular, they can make it easier for children to hear their parents and others more clearly when, for example, in the buggy or in a car. Despite these clear benefits, many local authorities do not make radio aids available to parents of pre-school deaf children to use at home.

We’re calling on local authorities to work with health bodies to review their policy on this issue and to ensure that parents are given the opportunity to try a radio aid with their children aged 0-4 , both at home as well as in early years settings to see if it works well for them.

Quality standards on the use of personal radio aids state that every deaf child should be considered for a radio aid at first hearing aid fitting.  However, families tell us that this does not always happen.  So what should parents do if the local authority says no? Here’s a brief summary of your options in challenging this:

First, you should ask for information on why your child has been turned down for a radio aid. In some cases, there may be good reasons why a radio aid is not the right option at this time. It’s also possible that a Teacher of the Deaf may have concerns about loss or damage to equipment. Having an open discussion may help to find possible solutions to any issues.

If the answer is still no, you can challenge this decision in two different ways.

  • If your child already has an Education, Health and Care plan (England), a statement of special educational needs (Wales and Northern Ireland) or a co-ordinated support plan (Scotland), you can also ask for a review of the plan/statement so that a radio aid can be added to it. You also have the right to request an assessment for a plan or statement if your child does not already have one. Our website has more information about your rights under laws for children with special or additional needs.
  • You can also make a formal complaint to the local authority on the grounds of disability discrimination. In particular, if you live in England, Scotland and Wales, local authorities and education settings are required, under the Equality Act 2010, to provide ‘auxiliary aids’ (which includes radio aids) as a reasonable adjustment to disabled people. They are also required to take steps under the Public Sector Equality Duty to proactively remove any disadvantage that disabled children may experience. Given the importance of good language and communication in the early years, we think it should be seen as unreasonable to deny a family with a deaf child a radio aid unless there are good reasons why not. Our website has more information about the Equality Act and how it can be used in education.
  • If the local authority still says no, you can appeal to a special Tribunal that hears cases about potential disability discrimination and/or a failure to follow laws relating to special or additional needs. There are time limits, so it is important to get more advice or information as soon as this happens.

For more information and advice, you can contact our Helpline. You can also borrow a radio aid through our Technology Test Drive.

If you have already made a complaint to your local authority or are still experiencing challenges, please do get in touch. We’re looking for families who, with lots of support from us, might be interested in taking legal action on radio aids in the early years – you can find more information about this in our short video.

The trouble with frameworks

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Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Last week the BSL interpreter’s union, NUBSLI, released a hard-hitting report criticising the Government use of national frameworks for public services buying in BSL interpreting support.

What is meant by a framework? (One of these terms loved by policy-makers but which probably means little to most ordinary people). In this situation, it is basically a set of conditions or rules that have to be followed by public bodies when buying in services. Governments like them because it allows them to control costs and quality.

So what is the problem? NUBSLI claims that the national frameworks for interpreting services being used by the NHS, courts, police and social services are damaging because it leads to contracts being awarded to a limited number of agencies. The agencies will gain contracts on the basis of delivering the required ‘quality’ for the lowest price. NUBSLI reports that there are a number of problems with this, including:

  • Having services provided by one large agency reduces choice for deaf people. They may not be able to use their preferred interpreter and cannot change the agency provided.

 

  • There is a downwards pressure on interpreter fees and their terms and conditions which threatens to make their work unsustainable.

 

  • Inexperienced interpreters are being used for very critical situations such as court cases or child protection meetings.

In 2016 the Government introduced a Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) for support funded through Disabled Student Allowances for students from England. It was not mentioned within NUBSLI’s report but there are some similarities. The QAF requires providers of support to pay to sign up to a register and agree to a number of terms and conditions. BSL interpreters have raised concerns about the QAF too because the administrative requirements of the framework discourage freelancers from registering.

We like quality assurance but our concern is that the way this system is set up can reduce choice for students. When I took my Masters degree in 2013 I was able to provide a list of preferred interpreters to my university’s Disability Advisor. This could no longer happen under the QAF. The fear is that more experienced interpreters (and other types of support workers) who will have a strong client base will decline to work in higher education due to unfavourable terms and conditions.

Are we therefore campaigning on this issue? Whilst some reservations have been expressed with civil servants, we have not been vocal about the QAF. This is because we lack evidence from deaf students themselves that they are receiving poor quality support. It is crucial for us to have evidence of a problem if we are going to be taken seriously by the Government.

If you are a higher education student not happy with the support you are getting through Disabled Student Allowances, please let us know by contacting our helpline. The same goes for anyone receiving support through the frameworks mentioned in NUBSLI’s report. Don’t suffer in silence – your case studies are really valuable for our work!

Changing Technology: How we help you keep pace

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Kim Hagen, Technology Research Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

I recently came across an old survey we ran in 1984. One of its main conclusions was that parents felt they had limited access to easily understood information about technology. Using technology can be quite daunting at the best of times, and it’s especially hard to see its benefits if you don’t have all the relevant information!

We’ve worked hard in the past decades to ensure families have the information they need to make an informed choice on the right technology to support their child. We cover technology in our events for families and parents of deaf children. Our Roadshow bus delivers technology sessions to schools around the UK. We sent out 1,866 copies of our ‘How Technology Can Help’ and ‘How Radio Aids Can Help’ booklets last year. We continue to campaign for better provision of technology to deaf children and young people; last year, we published research on the benefits of using radio aids in the early years at home. And let’s not forget our Blue Peter Technology Loan Service that went live in the mid-1980s. The name has since changed to the Technology Test Drive, but the principle is still the same: a free-of-charge technology loan service offering deaf children and young people, their families and the professionals working with them the opportunity to borrow products and try them out in their own environment.

We have close to 100 different kinds of products on our Technology Test Drive. Technology is constantly evolving and children want to be seen with the latest tech. That’s why we continuously update our stock. And we recently launched the Borrow to Buy scheme in which our members can borrow all the latest Phonak Roger radio aids, soundfield systems and accessories. But remember: despite the changes in technology the fundamental principles of how technology can benefit deaf children don’t change that much. A few examples:

• Amplified headphones can help young children listen to videos on an iPad and develop their vocabulary.
• Alarm clocks with a vibrating pad can help young children learn to tell the time and older children to get up on their own and be more independent.
• Radio aids can help your child make the most out of education and fulfil their true potential.
• Streamers can be a great way for deaf young people to make phone calls on their own, taking control of their lives and embracing responsibilities.
• Direct input leads can be used to listen to music. They look similar to the in-ear headphones a teenager’s peers may have, making them fit in and helping to develop their social identity.

The summer holidays are nearly here. Many of us might even have a break from our everyday hectic lives. Why not take this time as an opportunity to try out technology with your child? Access our Technology Test Drive, put in a request, and… happy testing!