Why kids with disabilities should not miss out on school attendance rewards

When my son finished his first term of primary school he was glad to shrug off his uniform, put on a Christmas jumper and relax. But there was one part of school he wanted to continue playing at – the attendance awards ceremony.

He wore his older brother’s attendance award badge at home, to the playground, to visit friends. He played at being the Head Teacher handing out awards for the children to show their parents. But he didn’t get an award that term. And it turned out he probably wouldn’t get one in the future.

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So, whilst most pupils build up a collection of attendance badges on their bags or jackets, my son would be the kid in the playground being asked not only “Why are you wearing those things in your ears?” but also, “Why do you have different badges to everyone else?”

Finn has regular audiology and speech therapy appointments as a result of his hearing loss, which bring his attendance below 100%. I asked the school whether Finn could get an award if his only absence was for essential medical appointments. I was told that it would not be possible: they could not review the reasons for absence of every child, but they could recognise Finn’s efforts by giving him a special badge instead.

So, whilst most pupils build up a collection of attendance badges on their bags or jackets, my son would be the kid in the playground being asked not only “Why are you wearing those things in your ears?” but also, “Why do you have different badges to everyone else?”

It’s very clear that schools shouldn’t be doing this. It is both unlawful under the Equality Act and it is harmful. A system which excludes disabled kids from getting rewards not only unfairly upsets a child each time it happens, but also risks demotivating disabled kids in the longer term, making them less interested in school, potentially with knock on consequences for how well they do and how they feel about themselves.

After reading up on the Equality Act I challenged the school’s policy for a second time. This time the school agreed to change their approach. It may seem like a small thing: a badge, a certificate and a handshake from the Head. But I’m sure it will make a big impression on my son.

At the end of this, I’m left with a few questions:

  • Why is this happening – is it because schools don’t have the capacity to think through how to apply the Equality Act or is it a conscious decision to prioritise increasing attendance?
  • Can Ofsted ensure that they don’t set up the wrong culture and incentives in the way they inspect attendance figures?
  • Can the Department for Education commit to providing clear and consistent guidance to schools on this? It is not enough to say that it is a matter for schools – without clear guidance schools will continue to discriminate against disabled children. You can see the current guidance on the Government’s website.
  • Ofsted are currently consulting on how they carry out inspections. Can they start to ask schools how they reward attendance without discriminating against disabled children? This could be included in their new inspection framework and in the training inspectors receive on how to assess equality, diversity and inclusion.

When challenging a school, there are three useful points to make: that it’s unlawful, it’s unfair, and should be easy to solve.

By Charlotte Green, a parent of three from London – read a longer version of this article on Special Needs Jungle.

If you’re interested in letting Ofsted know what you think of their proposed new inspection framework and how they treat attendance rewards for children with SEND, then take part in their online consultation now. The deadline for responses is 11:45pm on Tuesday 5 April 2019.

Names in this blog post have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Liam’s vlog – What can you do about the £4 million cuts?

Liam, a past member of our Youth Advisory Board has been vlogging all week for #DeafAwarenessWeek2018.

He’s just done his first signed VLOG (Go Liam!) and it’s all about our Stolen Futures campaign.

 

If you haven’t already – don’t forget to email your MP!

P.S: If you want to hear from him – check out his YouTube channel!

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

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.

Are universities going to become more inclusive?

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

Pretty soon, lots of teenagers will be receiving their A-level and BTEC results and find out if they will go to their preferred choice of university. I can remember how exciting and also nerve-wracking it felt to go to university for the first time. If you are deaf like me I think it can be even more so: will it be easy to follow the lectures? Will I make friends? Is communication going to be a problem?

Some readers of this blog will remember our fight against the changes to Disabled Students Allowances back in 2014 and 2015. Whilst the Government decided to maintain DSA funding for specialist note-takers (people with training specifically in writing notes for deaf students), funding for ordinary manual note-takers was removed for the 2016-17 academic year along with some other forms of less-specialised support such as library support assistants and proof-readers.

One of the Government’s justifications for cutting DSAs was because it wanted universities to develop a more inclusive approach to teaching so that learning is accessible to more students. No objections to that – we have always wanted universities to be more flexible. There have been plenty of deaf students who have expressed their frustration over the years at reasonable adjustments not being made such as Dean Kamitis in his recent Limping Chicken blog.

The Government has published guidance for higher education providers on ‘Inclusive Practice’. The guidance encourages universities to make changes so that their courses are more accessible to students with disabilities. Some universities are leading the way. I recently visited Du Montford University in Leicester and was impressed with their approach:

You have been waiting for it and here is the ‘but’. Does a piece of guidance go far enough? – the Government does not appear to have any stick (e.g. loss of funding) to beat universities with should they decide to ignore this guidance. Also, a couple of practitioners have said to me that they are concerned that some universities see inclusive practice as simply about rolling-out lecture capture technology. See this lecture recording for an explanation of how lecture capturing can benefit disabled students: see this lecture recording – oh wait…..no subtitles! And here lies the issue for many deaf students. Lecture capturing is not going to make a difference and could actually make access worse if more course content and materials move online.

Deaf students are small in number – most university disability advisors might be aware of 2 or 3 deaf students at their institution at most. This means that in general, teaching staff are not in regular contact with deaf students and have little awareness of their needs. This is why the National Deaf Children’s Society has extended our Supporting Achievement resources to higher education. Supporting the Achievement of Deaf Young People in Higher Education aims to provide disability advisors and other higher education staff with the information required to ensure deaf students get the support they need.

I know from experience, having people around who understand the barriers you face and how to communicate with you properly makes a huge difference. For deaf young people starting uni this September, it might help reduce those fresher’s week nerves!

If you are a young person at uni and you have having difficulties because your course is not fully accessible, you can get in touch with our helpline for further advice and guidance: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/how_ndcs_can_help/support_and_advice/

This blog is mostly relevant to students from England only as the DSA changes have not taken place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the Supporting Achievement resource is aimed at universities across the whole of the UK.

What do we know about communication support for deaf people?

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

Last week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a monster 142-page document summarising the responses it received to a review on communication support for deaf people. The aim of the review was to try and identify what we know about the supply and demand of professionals (such as interpreters, speech-to-text-reporters, etc.) whose role it is to provide support to deaf people with their communication. We submitted evidence back in 2016 setting out what we knew then about communication support for deaf children and young people.

So what have we learnt from the DWP report? Here are my own top five take-home messages from the report.

  1. Nobody is quite sure how many deaf people there are. For example, we have a very rough ball-park figure on the number of deaf children from the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education – but we know that those figures, whilst the best available, are not 100% reliable.
  2. Nobody really knows how many communication support professionals there are out there either. It’s not something that any government department appears to be measuring.
  3. However, there is a lot of evidence that there the number of communication support professionals isn’t enough. Lots of respondents gave examples of unmet demand among deaf people. For example, there is evidence that too many deaf children are being supported by communication support workers who don’t have an advanced qualification in sign language.
  4. It became clear from reading the report that the term ‘communication support workers’ (CSWs) means different things to different people. We at the National Deaf Children’s Society would use the term to refer to a type of specialist teaching assistant, someone who would provide support to deaf children in the classroom, with signed support as necessary. However, we wouldn’t see them as “interpreters” because CSWs need to be able to do much more than just interpret what the teaching is saying by, for example, supporting deaf children with notes, explaining concepts, and so on. It’s clear though that in other areas, deaf people are being supported by a professional described as a ‘communication support worker’ when really they should be supported by an interpreter. The report points to a need for much more clarity on the role of CSWs and what skills they need in different situations.
  5. Lots of people feel that technology – such as remote sign language interpreters or speech-to-text-reporters – can really help deaf people. However, there was a unanimous view that this cannot be seen as a substitute for ‘real life’ communication support. Indeed, many people were concerned that new technology was being used as an excuse to reduce support inappropriately.

So what happens next? We’re not yet sure. The DWP report is literally just a summary of responses and doesn’t set out any recommendations or actions for the Government.

On our side, we’d be keen to see the Government take action to improve data on deaf children and also to ensure there are more, better-qualified, communication support workers for deaf children and young people. We’d also like to see speech-to-text reporters being more widely used, particularly for older deaf young people, including those at university. We’ll be pressing the Government to set out what action it’ll be taking in response to the report so watch this space.