Right to Sign — What happens next?

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

The Department for Education in England recently confirmed that it does not object in principle to the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). The Department also said that it was open to considering proposals for this GCSE for introduction in the longer term. We think this is a positive step forward. Previously, the Government had refused to consider any new GCSEs.

However, it’s important to note that the process for delivering a GCSE in BSL will not be short or easy.

Any exam body, such as Signature, will need to meet the requirements set by the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual. In addition, the Department for Education has also said that any new GCSE could not be introduced in this Parliament so that schools can have a period of ‘stability’. Assuming there is no early election, this means there can be no new GCSE before 2022.

We are frustrated by the delay and that the Department continue to prioritise ‘stability’ over the need to ensure fairness for deaf young people. At the same time, we want any GCSE to be of the highest standard and we recognise it will take time for it to be ready. It’s important that any new GCSE in BSL has the same credibility as other GCSEs.

We’re calling on the Department to do everything it can to support and expedite progress, so that a new GCSE is ready to go as soon as the next Parliament begins. We want to see evidence they’re taking a ‘can-do’ attitude towards making a BSL GCSE a reality.

We’ve already had lots of questions about how the BSL GCSE will work. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to say how it will work in practice and much will depend on the progress that the Department, Ofqual and exam bodies like Signature make. Watch this space! More information about Signature’s work in this area can be found on their website.

There’s still a long way to go but we could not have got to where we are now without all the hard work by our campaigners and supporters – thank you to all those who’ve supported our Right to Sign campaign. We’ll be keeping a close eye on progress and will keep you updated.

Daniel’s Vlog – My Meeting with Nick Gibb

Hi, my name is Daniel and I’m a campaigner. I recently went to the Houses of Parliament in London to meet with the Minister for Schools Standards at the Department for Education, Nick Gibb MP. I asked to meet him because there still isn’t a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). This is really unfair to all children who use BSL as their first language. Have a look at my vlog to learn all about my day and my chat with Nick Gibb!

(This video is in BSL with subtitles)

 

 

https://e-activist.com/page/21204/action/1

Social Care, Deafness…and the Oscars

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Rachel Shenton’s Oscar-winning film, The Silent Child, highlights the importance of deaf children getting access to language and communication. If a deaf child is deprived of language, deprived of any opportunity to communicate with others, their fundamental human rights are being breached. In the film we see 4 year old Libby taught to flourish when she is taught sign language.

For everyone working in social care, this film is a timely reminder that deafness is not an issue to be forgotten about and brushed under the carpet. Deafness is not a learning disability and, with the right support from parents, education and other services, deaf children can achieve just as well as any other children.

But in reality, children’s social care, and social workers aren’t intervening early enough to prevent deaf children suffering neglect through language deprivation. There are many reasons for this but it’s important to remember that we must not blame parents, the majority of whom have had no experience of deafness and are seeking advice and support to just do their best.

There were once specialist social workers for deaf people working with both deaf children and deaf adults – but an unintended consequence from the separation of children and adult social care services in the mid-2000s meant these teams were no longer viable. Specialist children’s social workers joined general children’s disability teams, and due to pressures on time and resources, support for deaf children drastically reduced. This specialist expertise has now disappeared. Well-meaning professionals, who don’t have the training or the knowledge, are now all too often making dangerous decisions about what is best for deaf children.

I’ve seen some shocking cases. When discussing how a profoundly deaf young person, with significant additional needs, and whose first language was British Sign Language, could be supported in a mainstream children’s home, a senior manager suggested to me they could be ‘taught to lip-read’ and not given any sign language support.
Another social worker told a parent that their child didn’t need any language support as he was “only deaf”. I don’t blame the social workers here – it’s a lack of deaf awareness and a lack of real understanding of the lived experience of a deaf child.
But highlighting these issues isn’t enough. We need action. Research shows that the early years are critical for developing language and communication skills, and if neglected, they have long term consequences. But at the moment, the social care system doesn’t put early intervention services on a statutory footing. What’s more, we are seeing cuts across the country to posts like Teachers of the Deaf who are a key part of an early intervention service.

All of this highlights how deaf children and their social care needs are falling through the cracks. There are various options for how this can be improved. One answer could be to identify and train existing social care professionals as ‘champions’ for deaf children’s social care within their area. Neighbouring local authorities could jointly commission posts and share their resources. Deaf and other sensory charities could also be used more effectively. All of these are viable options for making sure that deaf children don’t get left behind in the social care system, as is sadly so often the case.

So while there are many challenges ahead, I hope that with a clear understanding of the problems, and just a little bit of Oscar glory, we can start to improve social care for deaf children across the UK.

Seven things we’ve learnt from the latest CRIDE report

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

Last week, the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) published the latest results for England from its annual survey of education services for deaf children. Though it has its limitations, it’s one of the best sources of data out there on deaf children and the report managed to attract a fair bit of media coverage (including in the Huffington Post and the Guardian). In this blog, I set out my own personal take on seven key findings from the report

1. There are more deaf children

Or, at least, there are more deaf children that local authorities know about. There are now at least 45,631 deaf children in England, a reported 11% increase over the previous year. It’s difficult to be sure whether this is because there are genuinely more deaf children and/or whether local authorities are getting better at identifying those that live in their area.

2. There are fewer Teachers of the Deaf

In 2017, we saw a 2% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England. Since 2011, we’ve seen a whopping 14% decline. These figures don’t take into account the number of trainee Teachers of the Deaf or Teachers of the Deaf in special schools – but it’s still clear there has been a significant long-term decline. Despite this, government action to address this has not been forthcoming.

3. There’s a looming retirement crunch

Over half of all visiting Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50, meaning they’re likely to retire in the next ten to fifteen years. Combined with the long-term decline in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, this could have a disastrous effect on deaf children, unless urgent action is taken by the Government.

4. Deaf children continue to be a diverse bunch

We know, for example, that 7% of deaf children have at least one cochlear implant, 14% use English as an additional spoken language at home while 22% have an additional special educational need. There can be a huge variety of need within deaf children which has important implications for Teacher of the Deaf training.

5. We still have an incomplete picture on post-16

It’s clear that local authorities continue to struggle in identifying deaf young people post-16, despite the introduction of a new 0 to 25 special educational needs framework in 2014 in England. For example, local authorities told us that 1,356 deaf young people left school in 2016. This is far less than we’d expect, based on what we know about the number of secondary aged pupils.

6. We know a bit more about the use of sign language in education

We already knew, from previous CRIDE surveys, that around 10% of all deaf children used sign language in education in some form. For the first time, instead of asking about all children, CRIDE asked about those who are severely or profoundly deaf. This revealed that, of this group, 29% use sign language in education, of which 8% use British Sign Language. It’s important to note that this doesn’t tell us about how much sign language is being used outside of school.

7. Government statistics on deaf children are still flawed

We know from CRIDE that there are over 45,000 deaf children across England. However, if we were to look at government figures, we’d be missing a large chunk of this group, around 42% of all deaf children. We’re calling on the Government to get better at collecting data on all deaf children.

There are still more stats yet to come – expect reports on deaf children in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the next month.

Right to Sign campaign update: Minister says no

Ian_Noon

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

Earlier this year, the National Deaf Children’s Society Youth Advisory Board, after months of hard work, launched their new Right to Sign campaign, calling for young people to have more opportunities for young people to learn sign language in schools.

They surveyed over 2,000 young people – deaf and hearing – and found that a whopping 92% thought schools should offer British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE. They published a report setting out the results in full and the case for action.

And the response from the Government? No.

Yesterday, when asked if the Department for Education in England would encourage exam boards to offer BSL as a GCSE, the Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “At present, there are no plans to introduce any further GCSEs beyond those to which the Government has already committed.”

To our knowledge, this is the first time the Government has ruled out introducing a BSL GCSE since the campaign was launched. It’s a massive disappointment and a real slap in the face for all of the hard work done so far by the Youth Advisory Board.

It’s hard not to feel angry about the response. It’s simply unfair and unjust that BSL, an official language in the UK used by thousands of people, is being treated in a way which implies it has a lower status and importance than other languages already being taught as GCSEs. It could even be seen as discriminatory to deaf people.

We’re not going to be deterred and will keep pressing the Department for Education in England for action – our briefing sets out some of the arguments we’re using. Two members of the Youth Advisory Board will also be asking MPs to support their campaign when they head to party political conferences later this month.

If you want to show your support for our work, please sign the Youth Advisory Board petition. More information about the different ways you can support the campaign can be found on the Buzz website.

 

General election 2017- Scotland

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Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister, Theresa May announced a snap election would take place on 8 June 2017. What will your new MPs in Scotland do to ensure deaf children and young people and their families in your area get the support they need?

There has been positive progress lately in Scotland for deaf young people and their families. The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 (BSL Act) was passed which marked an historic moment for deaf people across the country.

The implementation of the new laws is now underway with the draft BSL National Plan open for consultation. However work must continue by closing any existing gaps in support that exist for all deaf children and young people and their families.

Some key facts prospective MPs in Scotland should be aware of:-

  • We estimate there are as many as 3850 deaf children in Scotland today and we believe that, with the right support, they can do anything other children can do;
  • Deafness is not a learning disability, but deaf learners consistently do worse than their hearing peers at school;
  • Teachers of the Deaf are vital for many deaf children but there is regional variation in staffing levels and services are being squeezed with half are due to retire within the next 10 to 15 years;
  • The latest Scottish Government data shows that last year 11.8% of deaf learners left school with no qualifications (compared with 2.6% of all pupils) and 38.7% obtained Highers or Advanced Highers (compared with 59.3% of all pupils). This gap in achievement at school goes on to affect deaf young people’s life chances, with 24.7% going onto university compared with 41.3% of those with no additional support needs;
  • The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and a strong focus on educational attainment all have the potential to drive positive outcomes for deaf children and their families;
  • While this progress should be celebrated, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every deaf child in Scotland gets the support they need from birth – with standards of support variable across Scotland, we need MPs who will champion deaf children in their area!
  • The early years are a critical time for deaf children to develop the language and communication skills they need for life, as outlined in our recent report Getting It Right From the Start;

Will your MP be an advocate for deaf children in your area?

Tell them to email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk to request a briefing.

Right to Sign Campaign

Sophia-James-cropped

Sophia James, Senior Participation Officer (Campaigns) National Deaf Children’s Society

After a lively debate at a residential event in 2015, a group of 16 deaf young people voted to campaign about British Sign Language. Now, 18 months later, following our charity’s largest ever consultation of young people, their campaign for a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE and Scottish National 4/5 in schools has finally launched.

Our board are campaigning for the Right to Sign and we want you to give your support to this campaign. To explain what the campaign is about, Beth and Aliko have filmed this video.

There are lots of reasons to get behind this campaign and Frankie, from the YAB, explains in her vlog why she thinks it’s a good idea for young people to have access to learning sign language.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Read our report

Sign our petition

There is also a different action for each country in the UK, which you can find here.

So thanks for your support and let’s make the #righttosign a reality in schools.