Make it the law to close the gap

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

That is what the Scottish Government is aiming to do through their proposed Education (Scotland) Bill. The Bill contains fresh proposals that would require public authorities to report on how they are succeeding to close the education gap for the most disadvantaged young people.

The Scottish Government’s vision for children and young people is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and learn. The wide attainment gap that exists between those leaving school with the best and poorest outcomes undermines that vision. The Bill, along with the Government’s Attainment Challenge Fund work, aims to tackle this issue.

How do deaf children and young people stand to benefit? With the right support, deaf learners can achieve the same outcomes as their hearing peers of similar ability. Despite this, deaf learners are among the lowest attainment groups in Scotland. This has been acknowledged through the recent Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment.

However, the challenge lies in how the Bill defines “disadvantaged” and its focus on socioeconomic deprivation. Of course, there is a strong connection for all young people, including those who are deaf, between poverty and poorer educational outcomes.

However, poverty is not the only factor which can affect how well a deaf young person does at school. National and local investment into the things they might need at school: qualified interpreters, specialist teachers, good acoustics and effective technology, all have an important role to play. No matter how well off a family is, if something a deaf child needs is missing in their local community they won’t be supported to reach their full potential.

NDCS welcomes this ambitious new Bill, but we are calling on the Scottish Government to take the opportunity to address the multiple factors that cause attainment gaps, including Additional Support Needs. You can read our response to the committee here.

You can find out more about the Bill and follow its journey through Scottish Parliament here.

Closing the gap in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Last year NDCS published the Close the Gap report which highlighted the unacceptable education attainment gap which exists for deaf young people in Scotland. Data published in 2014 showed that almost 10% of deaf school leavers had no qualifications compared with just 1% of pupils with no Additional Support Needs. With the right support deaf young people can achieve just as much as their hearing peers. There is no reason why such a shocking statistic should be the reality facing as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland today.

A year on from our report’s publication the Scottish Parliament announced an Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment. This marks real progress and commitment from Scottish Parliament and Government towards closing the education gap for every child.

The Inquiry was solutions-focused and asked: what action can be taken to close the education attainment gap for sensory impaired pupils? Here are our views on what were the most important recommendations highlighted by the Inquiry:

1. Address the challenges affecting the specialist workforce for deaf learners including the consistency of qualifications Teachers of the Deaf have and their ageing profile.
2. Improve early intervention and support in the early years and establish Scottish Government early years standards that can inform care pathways and provision following newborn hearing screening diagnosis.
3. Improve data about deaf children so that local authorities can plan the services they need more effectively.
4. Ensure school buildings are meeting high quality acoustics standards – benefitting all learners, not just those are deaf.
5. Explore how we can use new technology to better support deaf learners, and in some cases centralise learning to offer deaf young people more opportunities and higher quality supports.
6. Support the confidence and resilience of deaf young people to help them prepare to succeed in whatever they do when they leave school.

The Education and Culture Committee are due to publish their Inquiry report in September, and NDCS will be responding to its recommendations then. Watch this space.

For more info contact: campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk