Crossing the Divide

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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

Further education (FE) is getting a lot of attention at the moment and rightly so. The UK has major skills shortages in many sectors and Brexit may mean we are less likely to be able to rely on EU immigration to plug the skills gap. The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, as I type this blog, has just made a speech where she talked about creating ‘an army of skilled young people for British business’. To address skills shortages the Government is creating 15 technical routes and new T-level qualifications in England. Wales is also on the verge of significant post-16 education reform.

FE colleges will play a major role in delivering the new qualifications and with FE colleges being the destination for the majority of deaf young people at 16, investment in the new technical routes will be no bad thing if they lead to clearer pathways to employment.

Recently, a small piece of research was carried out for us by a group of civil servants and corporate sector employees on the transition deaf young people make from FE into employment and the support they receive to do this in FE. We asked them to look at this issue because there is so little data out there on the outcomes of deaf young people who attend FE colleges – are they finding jobs after leaving college and how well prepared are they for entering the job market? We suspected that the support available to them to find work might be quite poor. Sadly, the research confirmed that this is probably the case. The main findings of the group’s research were:

  • 59% of parents of deaf young people stated their child’s college did not help them find any work experience or placement opportunities
  • 39% of parents stated their child had not received any careers support or guidance at college
  • Young people who had received college-supported work experience were more likely to have gone onto employment or further study

Some parents reported negative experiences with their child making the transition to work:

“It was disappointing that on his first visit to the Job Centre, in an effort to find employment, they put him on ESA (Employment Support Allowance) without the necessity to attend support sessions. In other words, he was written off as being unemployable”

“We didn’t know what help was available. Recruitment companies didn’t seem to be interested in helping my daughter get a job and I put this down to her being deaf.”

This type of experiences provide a strong case for deaf young people having access to tailored careers advice at school and college. It is not just about access to careers advice that their hearing course-mates receive. Do young people know that they can benefit from Access to Work? Do they understand their rights under the Equality Act? Are they aware of the organisations that might be able to provide further support when they leave education? We believe schools and colleges have a role in making sure deaf young people receive this type of information.

deaf young person looking for work

It is expected that work experience will be a compulsory part of a T-level – this is welcome and we need to make sure deaf young people receive the support they need on these placements.

FE and skills reform has cross-party support and I believe that better investment in FE will benefit many deaf young people. However, before they embark on any technical routes, we need to fight for deaf young people to have better access to decent careers advice so that they can make properly informed decisions about the career opportunities available to them and understand support that is available in the workplace.

I’m deaf myself and remember leaving education to find work being very daunting. I am sure it is the same many deaf young people finishing education today. Through working together with the FE and skills sector NDCS hopes to make the divide between education and work a lot narrower.

Residential special schools and colleges – have your say

 

Emily-Meacher-cropped

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Assistant, National Deaf Children’s Society

Are you a parent of a child in a residential special school or college – or a young person studying in one? If so, a new review has been set up and they want to hear from you. 

What’s this review about?

The Government has asked Dame Christine Lenehan to carry out a review on the experiences and outcomes of children and young people attending residential special schools and colleges. These are sometimes known as boarding schools. The review will help Dame Lenehan come up recommendations for how things might be improved.

Dame Lenehan is keen to hear from as many parents and young people as possible.

How can I take part in the call for evidence?

If you are a parent of a child or young person, the review team are particularly interested in your answers to the following questions:

  • How did you find the process of getting a residential place for your child?
  • Are you happy with where your child is residing?
  • Are you supported in keeping in touch with your child when he/she is away?
  • What outcomes would you like to see from your child attending boarding school/college?

Parents could go through these questions above with their child and discuss together their experiences. Alternatively, there are also some questions for children and young people.

  • What were/are the best things about being at boarding school/college?
  • What were/are the best things about being at boarding school/college?
  • What are the staff who look after you like?
  • What would you like to do after leaving boarding school/college?

How to respond

Each submission to this call for evidence should:

  • be no longer than 2,000 words in length
  • include a brief introduction about yourself/your child and your reason for submitting evidence
  • emailed to Leneham.Review@education.gov.uk before the 17th March.

You can send through responses in alternative formats such as audio or videos.

For more information on the call to evidence, visit the Government’s website.

 

FE is under review

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (post-14)

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (post-14)

The further education (FE) sector often complains about being overlooked with education in schools and universities getting far more attention. However, for deaf young people it matters. Around two thirds of them attend FE colleges in comparison with around one third of hearing young people aged 16. FE provides deaf young people with the opportunity to obtain vocational qualifications and personal maturity.

The sector is in trouble with many FE colleges complaining of a funding crisis following large government cuts to the adult education budget and funding changes for students aged 16-19. The Government has set up a number of area reviews in England to look at FE and 6th form college provision with the aim of ‘restructuring’ the further education sector. They are likely to lead to college mergers in order to bring about greater efficiency. Currently being reviewed are the following areas – Birmingham and Solihull, Sheffield City, Greater Manchester, Tees Valley, Solent Valley, Sussex Coast and West Yorkshire.

Are the reviews relevant to deaf students? They could be. Provision for students with disabilities should be considered under each review. We know that there is a great variation in the amount of specialist support available for deaf students between different colleges. If a college with good support for deaf students is taken over by another college then that support could be at risk. On the other hand, the reviews could be an opportunity to achieve more consistent provision within an area – fewer colleges could mean less variation in the support that is available.

NDCS would like the review steering groups to consider the role of regional provision. This is when a service is used by more than one college rather than each college having its own separate service for deaf students. This could be a more efficient system and ensure that specialist knowledge is available to more students.

NDCS will be sending information to each of the review steering groups. Let’s hope their members take notice and that the reviews can be an opportunity rather than a threat.

8 things that need to be done to ensure deaf young people get a good start at college

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

I recently blogged about some new research from the University of Manchester on deaf young people in further education. The report made for depressing reading. But it wasn’t all negative and the report made a number of recommendations for improvements that should be made.

For example, it identified 8 factors which were found to be helpful in making sure a deaf young person moving from school to college at age 16 can make a good start. These were:

  1. Start the transition process early (ideally in Year 9 onwards).
  2. Ensure that the individual deaf young person is at the centre of the process. Their preferences, strengths, needs and ideas should frame the discussion, not how much money is available or what usually happens.
  3. Make sure the deaf young person understands fully what transition means and helping them to see they have choices and their opinion matters.
  4. Prioritise the deaf young person’s communication support needs in any discussions and meetings. What would help them fully to take part?
  5. Work with the young person to build their skills and knowledge so they have everything they need to take part as fully as they can in any decisions. This might include, for example, building their confidence to ‘speak up’ in meetings, learning how to weigh up advantages and disadvantages in order to make a decision, or identifying what is most important to them and then working towards that goal.
  6. Provide opportunities to learn through experience so all possible options (FE college, apprenticeships, sixth form etc.) feel real, not abstract. This is a better basis for a young person to start to consider options in practice, not just options in theory.
  7. Pay due attention to the full range of options for deaf young people on leaving school rather than just seeing FE as the usual option and everything else an exception.
  8. Remain open minded to a range of course options for deaf young people. We came across examples of some professionals, and also some parents, ruling out some potential career choices ‘because deaf people did not do that’. Equally we found that deaf young people were commonly directed towards some courses because these were seen as ‘suitable’ or the best chance of gaining a qualification. Both of these points of view potentially lead to a reduced range of possibilities for deaf young people.

 By making these improvements, schools, colleges and local authorities can help ensure that deaf young people attend a college that’s right for them and, once they get there, get the support that they need to do well.

NDCS is currently updating our resources to make sure that the research findings are reflected in our advice to colleges and education professionals. In the meantime, for more information about the research, you can read the full report and an executive summary at www.ndcs.org.uk/research. A BSL summary is also available online on the University of Manchester website

New research shows that further education colleges are failing to meet deaf young people’s needs

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Did you know that 60% of deaf young people go to a further education college, compared to just one third of other young people? Despite this, new research by the University of Manchester and commissioned by the National Deaf Children’s Society raises serious questions about the support that deaf young people get at college.

Some of the key findings from the research include:

  • A quarter of deaf young people do not achieve a qualification at any level whilst in college. Their drop-out rates are twice that of the general population.
  • Deaf young people are not being supported to make informed choices about which college is right for them. Local authorities seem to be steering deaf young people to cheaper options that may not best meet their needs.
  • The amount and quality of support that deaf young people receive in college seems to vary considerably. In particular, the availability of communication support is mixed.
  • There is no national process for tracking deaf young people’s progress in further education.

One thing I found especially depressing about the report is that the researchers clearly found many deaf young people who are ambitious and keen to do well. But they are not being supported to develop their knowledge, experience and information to make good decisions about their future options.

The research is not all negative. The researchers found examples of effective practice where deaf young people were being well-supported. It also made recommendations for things that can be done to help deaf young people before they move to college. Come back soon for my next blog to find out more about this.

You can read the full report and an executive summary at www.ndcs.org.uk/research . A BSL summary is also available online on the University of Manchester website.