Election 2017: Education funding and deaf children

Brian_Gale

Brian Gale, Director, Policy and Campaigns

One of the big election hot potatoes is around education funding, with many parents concerned about possible cuts to the money schools get.

But it’s not just schools that are experiencing challenges – services for deaf children and other children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are also under pressure.

It’s true that the Government have protected, and provided some additional SEND funding. But it’s also clear in many areas that this isn’t enough. Too many local authorities have, or are planning to, cut the vital services upon which deaf children rely.

There are various reasons why the government’s ‘protection’ isn’t enough.

  • It doesn’t take into account inflation or increases in wages and pension contributions, so will still constitute a cut for many local authorities in real terms.
  • It also fails to take into account the fact that the number of children and young people with SEND are rising across the board, including deaf children.
  • More children are being placed in special or residential schools, which will be more expensive to the local authority. There’s been a 19% increase in special school places in the last 5 years.
  • New legal duties and policies means that services are expected to do more to ensure more childcare is available for young children and to support deaf young people over 16. Whilst there are positive intentions behind these changes, the extra funding provided has not been enough to meet their ambitions.

To fund the shortfall during the past 3 years, over 75% of local authorities have had to take more than £300million from school budgets to try to meet their legal obligations to children with SEND. Even that has not been sufficient to stop some children with SEND experiencing cuts to the support they receive.

More worrying is a proposal by the Government to stop local authorities using school budgets to meet the needs of an increasing number of disabled children requiring support. This could leave families facing the prospect of cuts to the support their disabled children receive.

We’ve been monitoring and challenging reductions to spending on deaf children’s education across England for the last seven years as part of our Stolen Futures campaign. Many of the parents we work with will be seeking reassurance that the next Government will do more to protect these vital services.

One way the Government could do this is by putting specialist education support services for children and young people with SEND, such as Teachers of the Deaf, onto a statutory footing. This would mean that local authorities would in future have a legal duty to ensure sufficient specialist support is provided. We think that putting these services on a statutory footing will protect them from funding cuts and help make sure that deaf children get the support they need to get a good education.

Do you agree? If so, ask the people standing for election in your area what they will do to protect services for deaf children if they get elected. Will they commit to support a new legal duty on local authorities to provide specialist education services for children and young people with SEND?

Find out more about our election work on our website.

What are the political parties offering deaf children and young people?

Beccy Forrow Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children's Society

Beccy Forrow Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

We know that for most parents of deaf children, the support that politicians are promising for deaf children’s services is a top election priority.

We’ve given you our roundup of the manifesto commitments affecting deaf children over the last few weeks but perhaps you’d like to hear from the parties themselves?

With this in mind, check out the debate on See Hear about the parties’ plans for policies affecting the deaf community – it might help you to decide where to put your cross on 7 May!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05q1072/see-hear-series-35-1-election

The debate features:

  • Mark Harper, Conservative, former Minister for Disabled People
  • Kate Green, Labour, Shadow Spokesperson for Disabled People
  • Star Etheridge, UKIP, Disability Spokesperson
  • Steve Webb, Liberal Democrats, former Minister of State for Pensions

Representatives from the Green party, Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party, Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, were also asked for their views on some of the issues affecting deaf people.

A few questions were asked that relate directly to deaf children and young people, in particular:

  • What will the parties do about the decline in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf and how will they make sure they are well qualified in BSL? – 18.10 mins
  • Should there be a GCSE in BSL? – 22.48 mins
  • How will the parties ensure deaf children have a good quality of life? – 48.10 mins

Watch the programme and make up your own mind about which party has the best offer for deaf children and young people….

If you want to find out more about what the parties are proposing, you can ask your prospective parliamentary candidates. They need your vote and hopefully will be responsive to any questions you might have! Ask your candidates what they know about deaf children and call on them to protect the services that they rely on in the next Parliament.

The Your Next MP website also has information on the candidates in your area and our website has more information on the election, including a detailed election factsheet.

And….don’t forget to vote on Thursday!