19 things I’ve learnt from working at NDCS

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

This is my final week at NDCS. I’m leaving to move to the US and lots of exciting new opportunities there. I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect back on my time working for the best deaf children’s charity out there!

1)    Readers of this blog love listicles! Two of our most popular blog posts are this one and this one. So I thought I’d try and replicate that. If you want to have a go, send your ideas to campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

2)    Lots of facts on deafness – here’s 11 to get you started

3)    We have some great parent campaigners


4) The Policy and Campaigns Team rocks at winning internal competitions – from best at fancy dress, to best Christmas decorations and quiz winners, we are undoubtedly the best team!


5)   By working together, we can make a difference – I’m particularly proud of getting a commitment from Birmingham Council to protect services for deaf children in 2014/15. We have to keep working to make sure they keep their commitment.

6)    Eating bacon every Friday morning (known in the office, unimaginatively, as Bacon Friday) isn’t particularly healthy…but it is tasty!2

7)    Having Regional Directors in every region of England makes NDCS much more able to challenge cuts at a local level with better knowledge of the area.

8)     I’m a pioneer

9)    No language is as fun to learn as BSL…Layout 1

10)   …And no language is more fun to sing in than sign language!

11)    Parents sharing their stories makes a difference. Last year, thousands of parents shared their story with their MPs to help us secure a debate in parliament.


12)   Softball. NDCS staff play in the second largest softball league in the UK, the London Charity Softball League. We even reached the final a couple of years ago!Softball

13)   Freedom of Information requests are a great way of finding out what is happening across the country to services for deaf children.

14)   NDCS works internationally – not just in the UK!NDCS Campaigns Blog - DCW Ecuador Exchange

15)   Some great deaf awareness tips from working around deaf staffsuperkids-template (2)

16)   International Lumberjack Day exists.8

17)   NDCS works with thousands of families each year, addressing all levels of deafness

18)   80% of children have experienced glue ear by the age of 10. That’s four in every five children.Jonathan aged two

19)   The staff and volunteers at NDCS all work really hard to make the world that little bit better for deaf children – please continue to support them!

What does the reshuffle mean for deaf children?

Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

With Jeremy Hunt remaining as Health Secretary, the headline-grabbing Cabinet move announced yesterday for deaf children was in Education. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, was replaced by Nicky Morgan. The big question is what this might mean for deaf children?

We are unaware of any personal connection that Morgan has to deafness, whereas Gove had a deaf adoptive sister growing up and a mother who was a Teacher of the Deaf. This meant that Gove always had some interest and familiarity in the issue of childhood deafness. Morgan has previously asked questions of ministers on deaf issues, but otherwise there is a question mark over her familiarity with deafness.

Michael Gove at an NDCS event in 2008

Michael Gove at an NDCS parliamentary event in 2008

What can we expect from the Department for Education moving forward? There will be a continued focus on SEN reform. There are positive intentions here, but will it lead to better outcomes for deaf children? We are concerned it won’t unless there is a proper focus on accountability within the system.

We can’t ignore also the impact of cuts. Through our Stolen Futures campaign, we have interacted frequently with local government. Too often, cuts to services are happening at a local level. The Department for Education have said that they have protected the budget, but it’s clear that this hasn’t been backed up by action.

Over the past few years, we have seen a trend of improving attainment for deaf children and young people. With 43% of deaf children achieving five good GCSEs compared to 70% of children with no identified special education needs, there is still a lot that needs to be done. Action is still needed from the government. Let’s hope Nicky Morgan can deliver.

8 Top tips for campaigning using social media

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

We thought that we’d share some of our top tips for campaigning on social media as we often get asked about this by parents wanting to campaign. We find that the two most useful websites for spreading the campaigning message are Twitter and Facebook, so most of these tips are focusing on those two sites, but many apply to others too.

1)    Social media is about two-way conversations – ask questions and answer others when they ask you.

2)    Using images with status updates doubles the level of engagement.

3)    Update regularly. This doesn’t have to be every day, though it is better if it is. I’d say make sure you update at least once a week to avoid your presence becoming stale and uninteresting.

4)    Use hashtags (which look like this: #basketball) to find other people talking about the same subject, or to share your message with people interested in similar things, in this instance basketball.BBall

5)    The shorter the status, the more popular it will be. Brevity is appreciated in pretty much all walks of life, and online it’s no different! About 100 characters is an optimum length for tweets, which isn’t very much. In fact, it’s about the length of point (1). The optimum length for facebook posts is even shorter – about 40 characters.

6)    Speed is really important, especially on Twitter. In August 2013 there was a record 143,199 tweets per second, caused by people in Japan watching the film Castle in the Sky. A lot of content is generated very quickly, as anybody tweeting along to BBC Question Time (#bbcqt) can testify, so it is important to keep up to speed with it. People will engage with you if you are useful to them. One way to be useful is to be relevant: it isn’t much use to be sharing an article on social media that everyone read three weeks ago.Lobsters

7)    Be yourself. One of the fantastic things about social media is that everybody can find their own little niche. Are you a fan of knitting mid-sixteenth century Sicilian lobsters? Then you’ll be able to find somebody else online with a similar interest! Find them, engage with them, and amazing things can happen. Similarly, it is an informal, relaxed and humorous place – embrace it!

8)    Tweet your MP. Twitter gives you direct access to decision-makers – MPs, councillors, health services. Tweeting them directly can engage them in conversation and you can keep the pressure on them!

BBC Subtitle Fail

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

Buzzfeed and Metro have printed about the latest in a long line of subtitle errors, after the BBC mistakenly used the word ‘rape’ instead of rain during its weather forecast earlier this week. This wasn’t some sick joke, but a technological error.

The articles cover a number of similar past mistakes. Whilst sometimes these typos can be amusing, there is a serious issue too: deaf people rely on subtitling technology to receive information.


With live programmes, such as the weather forecast, we know it is difficult and errors occur. Nobody really thought that the weatherman was talking about rape at Glastonbury, after all. But more can and should be done when it comes to programmes that are filmed well in advance. Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research at NDCS, has blogged more about this on Limping Chicken.

This is a frequent problem and one that creates yet another barrier for deaf people. Ofcom has started to look into this, but broadcasters must take responsibility for ensuring their work accessible to all.

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

Every week we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, which may be of interest.

1)   The Beckhams learn sign language, Orange News

Victoria Beckham and her husband David are learning sign language with their children so they can communicate with a deaf friend. The stars and their three boys, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, have all been receiving tuition – but Victoria admits their youngest son has been using the regular sessions to learn a number of cheeky expressions.

2)  Shock over plan to cut free NHS hearing aids: Thousands could be denied device under cost-cutting plans, Victoria Fletcher, Daily Mail

Thousands of people who struggle to hear properly could be denied NHS hearing aids under ‘shocking’ cost-cutting plans being considered by health bosses. Under the new proposals, those classed as ‘hard-of-hearing’ would have to wait until they had ‘severe’ hearing loss to qualify for the devices.

3)   ‘Disconnect’ in parents’ careers advice and jobs market, Pippa Stevens, BBC News

There is a “disturbing disconnect” between parents’ traditional careers advice to their children and the needs of the jobs market, research says. One in 10 of 2,000 parents said they would “actively discourage” their kids from digital jobs such as coding.

4)   How my son benefited from accessing his education with skilled sign language support, Limping Chicken

Anonymous post from a parent talking about the importance of the correct support for deaf children in the classroom. It does, however, mention the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign, so definitely worth a read!

5)   10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can’t, The Guardian

An anonymous teacher writes about what he/she would say to parents if he/she could. Fairly self-explanatory.

Have you seen any articles this week that you liked? Post the link to them in the comments section below and we’ll check them out!

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

Every week, we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, that may be of interest.

1)   Free schools – what can America teach Britain? – Laura McInerney, The Guardian

MPs visited the US last month to see what we can learn from charter schools. According to this feature, they came away with ideas about closure, takeovers and decisive action.

2)    9 milestones deaf parents should record Emily Howlett, Limping Chicken

Have you seen any of these hugely popular ‘Baby Milestones’ things? They’re generally books, or lists, or online checkboxes of gorgeous and lovely things your little one will do, so that you can record precisely when each happened for the first time. Here’s a rundown of the extras you get as a deaf parent.

3)    See Hear: Looking beyond the curtain of silenceWilliam Mager, BBC News Online

We’ve come a long way in the 41 years since Horizon first broadcast a documentary on deafness. Sometimes we should stop and celebrate, which this article does.

4)   One year until General Election 2015: what charity leaders want Aimee Meade, The Guardian

A range of charity leaders discuss what they want to see from the political parties for the third sector before the general election next year.

5)    Building communication with a deaf childLydia L. Callis, Huffington Post

Lydia Callis argues that discovering sign language with your deaf infant offers the opportunity for both of you to experience a richer life and a closer relationship. By accepting your child’s abilities and taking the time to access their world from a young age, you also give them access to yours.

Have you spotted any good articles around this week? Leave a comment below to share them with us!

11 things you didn’t know about childhood deafness

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant


This blog was co-written with Vicki Kirwin, Development Manager, at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). 


1)   More than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents meaning new parents have no previous knowledge about deafness and rely on good support and information to understand how best to help their child

2)   You may know that there are 45,000 deaf children in the UK. But did you know that 1 in 5 pre-school children have a temporary deafness caused by glue ear at any one time? That’s more than 770,000 young children experiencing deafness right now.

3)   Classrooms are noisy places and even a child with mild hearing loss can miss as much as 50% of classroom discussion without appropriate support.

4)   Not all deaf children are born deaf. At least half develop deafness during childhood. This can be because they inherited a gene that causes childhood-onset deafness, or because of infection, illness or injury.

5)   The word ‘cochlea’ comes from the Latin for ‘snail shell’. The cochlea has 2.5 turns in its ‘shell’.

6)   The inner ear is where the cochlea detects sound and turns it into electrical signals. These signals are sent to the brain which interprets or makes sense of what has been heard.

7)   There is some great technology to help support a lot of deaf children with their learning and development.

8)   Deaf children are just as likely to enjoy music and develop an interest in playing musical instruments as hearing children, if exposed to them. NDCS supports music teachers and venues in being deaf friendly.

9)   If given the right opportunities deaf children can learn and use two or more languages, including sign language, English and other spoken foreign languages.

10)   There are at least 137 different sign languages used around the world (the one shown below is not one of them). Find out more here.

11)   Given the right support deaf children can do anything their hearing friends can. But they can’t clean their ears with their tongue unlike this giraffe whose tongue is 21-inches long!


The National Deaf Children’s Society are working to bring about a world without barriers for all deaf children.

Join us to campaign today.