Wales: Mind the Gap!

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

Every year, a pile of statistics finds its way into my inbox. I’ve never been a fan of stats and spreadsheets, but nevertheless, I am always grateful to receive these ones on the attainment of deaf pupils in Wales.

Just a few years ago, there was no published data on the number of deaf pupils in Wales – let alone information on their attainment.

Such data is a key part of the picture when looking at how well our deaf learners are supported in Wales and NDCS Cymru campaigned for the data to be available.

We know that deaf pupils face challenges, but with appropriate support they can achieve on a par with their hearing peers. Unfortunately, the stats show significant attainment gaps between deaf learners and their peers. Last year, deaf pupils were 30.2% less likely to achieve A*-C GCSE grades in the 3 “core subjects” (English/Welsh, Maths and Science.)

Whilst this paints an upsetting picture, it is important to consider what it actually means. It certainly isn’t an indictment of our Teachers of the Deaf! We know we’re lucky to have many dedicated and talented Teachers of the Deaf working across Wales. But we also know that these professionals are often working beyond capacity with sky-high caseloads. We know that we desperately need to ensure new professionals are trained up for the next generation, especially since many of our current Teachers of the Deaf are nearing retirement.

But we also need to look beyond the Teacher of the Deaf. We need to find ways of addressing the numerous barriers and challenges that deaf pupils can face – barriers that deaf young people themselves tell us about. To name but a few these include the need for; greater deaf awareness among educational staff generally, improved classroom acoustics and more support workers with BSL skills.

The attainment statistics upset me, but they also keep me passionate about my work – campaigning to make a difference for deaf young people in Wales.

NDCS Cymru has been campaigning hard on behalf of deaf learners. Although there is still much to be done, some good changes are happening.

Even as positive steps are taken, it will be essential that we keep accessing this attainment data to monitor the attainment gap and ensure it closes. Essentially, we need to mind the gap. That’s why NDCS Cymru is calling on the Welsh Government to make sure this valuable information is not lost as it reviews the way in which attainment data is collated across Wales. It may sound like a boring topic, but it is vitally important!

So, when it comes to this year’s attainment data, let’s not read it and weep. Let’s read it and:

  1. be grateful for the fact that we have it;
  2. recognise the work of fabulous professionals who work hard to support our deaf learners;
  3. keep campaigning to ensure all deaf children can have the support they need.

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.

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.

Free NDCS resources that can help your child’s development and education during their infant years

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Most NDCS resources are free but remember you have to register as a member of NDCS to get some of them. Membership is free and joining up is easy. Some of the links below will take you to the membership page. Once you have registered or signed in the link will take you to the document you want. You can also order any of the resources below by contacting the NDCS helpline.

Helping your children to read and write 5-7 years

Helping your deaf child to develop language, read and write (3-4 year olds): Although for the early years some of this may be useful for children aged 5 to 7 particular those aged 5.

Helping your children with maths 5-11 years

Helping your deaf child to develop early maths skills (3-4 year olds): Although for the early years some of this may be useful for children aged 5 to 7 particular those aged 5.

Starting Primary School: Guidance on choosing a school and preparing for the start of school

Supporting the achievement of deaf children in primary schools: This guidance is for teachers. You may want to see what advice we are giving and ensure that your child’s school has a copy and encouraged to read it.

Deaf children and bullying: Guidance for parents and professional

What are you feeling? A guide to teaching emotional literacy in the classroom: This is a tool for teachers to work through with children to help them expand their emotional vocabulary so that they can understand and identify how they feel

View our film clips on the role of a Teacher of the Deaf and the Educational Psychologist.

Hearing technology

Our audiologist gives step-by-step instructions on how to keep your child’s hearing aids in good working order. There are 3 short videos lasting 3 or 4 minutes covering , how to change the tubing in hearing aids, how to look after hearing aids and how to manage whistling in hearing aids

NDCS’s offers you a free loan of radio aids for 3 months to see if it is suitable for your child

Family Weekends

 NDCS runs pre school family weekends where parents get together to discuss their experiences and learn about the impact of deafness and how they can help their child’s prepare for school

Information on SEN Reforms: For information on the changes to special education needs and the implications for deaf children. Also information on the Equality Act

How well are deaf children aged 5-7 doing in school in England?

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

This blog highlights some of the key points from the government’s data on the attainment of deaf pupils where a “hearing impairment” is their main type of special education needs (SEN) and where they have either a statement of SEN or receive additional specialist support.

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 at birth, good levels of support from parents, health, education and social care services and effective use of hearing technology can reduce the disadvantages deaf children may face. Indeed in recent years we have seen a significant improvement in the attainment of deaf children

The Phonics screening check

Phonics is a basic skill used in learning to read and write. Phonics is the relationship between the letter you see on the page and the sound that it makes when you say it. For example, knowing that the written letter “a” has the sound /a/ as in apple, or ant. Therefore acquiring skills in phonics is can be challenging for children with a hearing loss.

Schools are required to check a child’s ability in phonics when they are 6 years. The table below shows the percentage of deaf children who attain the expected level since this check was introduced in 2012. It is not surprising that deaf children will do less well than hearing children but the improvement between 2012 and 2013 is encouraging.

Proportion of Year 1 children reaching expected level of phonic decoding:

Year        Deaf children         All children
2013             41%                           69%
2012             30%                           58%

By the end of Year 2, 59% of deaf child attained the expected level in phonics compared to 85% of all children. These figures demonstrate the need for class teachers to work with Teachers of the Deaf to continue to help deaf children learn phonics.

Attainment at the End of Key Stage 1 (aged 7 years)

The table below shows the percentage of pupils attaining Level 2 (referred to as expected levels) in reading and writing. The good news is that the proportion of deaf children achieving Level 2 has improved over the 4 years by 8% for reading and 13% in writing. – This is slightly better than the improvement for all children so there are signs that the gap in attainment is slowly narrowing.

Proportion of children reaching expected level at Key Stage 1 for reading and maths:

Reading                                             Writing
Year          Deaf children      All children       Deaf children     All children
2013             66%                        89%               60%                  85%
2012             65%                        87%               58%                  83%
2011             57%                        85%               51%                  81%
2010             62%                        85%               55%                  81%
2009             61%                        84%               53%                  81%

The next table shows how deaf children are performing in Maths. The proportion of deaf children achieving Level 2 in Maths has improved by 6% over a 4 year period. – slightly better than the improvement for all children.

Proportion of children reaching expected level at Key Stage 1 for Mathematics:

Year         Deaf children        All children
2013                73%                         91%
2012                71%                         91%
2011                67%                         90%
2010                71%                        89%
2009                69%                        89%

What should parents do if they are worried about their deaf child’s progress or attainment levels in Key Stage 1?

It is important to remember that, like hearing children, deaf children cover the full range of skills and abilities. Further, your child’s hearing loss can delay your child’s development in key areas.

While it is important to have high expectations, 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 while others may require far greater levels of support.

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”. In many cases the focus will be on communication and language as this is the key to other aspects of learning and development. If your child is not making good progress despite the schools best endeavours you can make a request for a statutory assessment of your child’s needs which may result in an Education Health and Care Plan.

Professionals who know your child, e.g. class teachers and the Teacher of the Deaf should be able to offer good advice. However, if parents remain worried about their child’s lack of progress and support , the NDCS is able to offer support and advice 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.

Free resources that can help you support your deaf child’s development and education in the early years (0-5 years)

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Early years education from birth is critical for all children. It is particularly vital for deaf children to ensure that their ability in communication and language is sufficiently developed to be able to participate in teaching and learning in school and make friends and socialise. Parents and family are the most important educators of children at this stage of their life.

Below is a list of free resources that can help parents support their child’s development and learning in the early years. Please don’t feel overwhelmed by the volume of information available. Pick and choose what suits you best and digest in small bites. Please also don’t lose sight of basic key messages:

  • Learning should be fun
  • Several short sessions being better than one big long session. It’s better to stop when children are still happy in what they are doing
  • Learning takes place during normal day to day activities and playing games
  • Take every opportunity to communicate and talk to your deaf child ensuring they have the opportunity to express themselves (don’t hold back communication and conversation because they are deaf and encourage family and friends to fully engage with your deaf child. Take steps to ensure there is a good listening environment in your home and your child can make maximum use of their hearing equipmentSchools Fingerspellathon 09

Resources from  NDCS

The following resources can be accessed via our website or can be ordered from our helpline. Some of the resources are not available on the website unless you are a member of NDCS. Membership is free and you can sign up to become a member on our website.

Hearing technology

Our audiologist gives step-by-step instructions on how to keep your child’s hearing aids in good working order. There are 3 short videos lasting 3 or 4 minutes covering , how to change the tubing in hearing aids, how to look after hearing aids and how to manage whistling in hearing aids.

NDCS’s offers you a free loan of  radio aids for 3 months to see if it is suitable for your child. There is also a leaflet on how radio aids can help.

Family Weekends

NDCS runs family weekends where parents get together to discuss their experiences and learn about the impact of deafness and how they can help their child’s development.

NDCS publications on communication, language and learning

Helping your deaf child to develop language, read and write (3-4 year olds): This booklet provides practical ideas to help your child develop their language and early reading and writing skills. It includes information on creating a good listening environment in your home.

Communicating with your deaf child: This aims to answer the questions parents have asked about how to support their child’s language and communication development.

Communication Begins at Home DVD. For families with children aged under 3 years. It follows six children and their families on a typical day to see how they communicate.

Family Sign Curriculum: A resource for families who want to use BSL to help with communication. It teaches the signs and phrases needed for nursery rhymes, stories, playing make-believe games as well as the tools for practical communication about food, sleeping and nappy changing.

Playtime and deaf children: A guide to books, toys and other play resources for deaf children.

Helping your deaf child to develop early maths skills (3-4 year olds): This booklet will help you to develop your child’s understanding of maths through play and everyday activities.

Supporting the achievement of deaf children in early years settings and Early Years Matters DVD .These publications are aimed at professions in early years settings rather than parents but you may wish to ensure you child’s setting has a copy and is aware of the content.

For families in Scotland

In Scotland NDCS has received funding for an early support project “Your Child Your Choices”. Check out events that may be of help.

Other helpful Resources

Home Learning Programme: For parents wanting to develop their child’s oral  skills the Elizabeth Foundation provides a home learning programme.

Cued speech support: For parents wanting to investigate cued speech, information is provided on cued speech with babies and young child. Information can be downloaded at no charge but the Cued Speech Association does charge for some workshops.

Listen Up: Produced by the Communications Trust, games that promote communication.