General election 2017: Uninspected audiology services

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Adviser

Would you send your child to a school that hadn’t been inspected by Ofsted? Would you ride in a car that didn’t conform to industry safety standards? Would you eat in a restaurant that refused to take part in food hygiene inspections? All questions I’d answer no to.

But this is what is being allowed to happen with children’s audiology services in England. Only 15% of services have been inspected and achieved a high enough standard to become ‘accredited’. This leaves the majority of services uninspected – with deaf children, young people and their families having no idea whether they are attending a great service or one that is poor quality and unsafe.

Considering that an NHS report in 2014 found that one third of audiology services were failing to meet critical NHS quality standards, with no incentive to improve, it’s unlikely that many will now be providing a better service. This matters because hearing is critical to a child’s development of language and learning. Early diagnosis and support reduces the risk of delays in language, educational, social and emotional development. But this support needs to be consistently of good quality.

Earlier this year we created an audiology map so that parents could check if their local service had reached a high enough standard to be accredited. However, of 134 services, 40 have so far refused to take part in the inspection scheme at all. Many others have registered for the scheme but not moved closer to an inspection visit over the course of the last few years.

We’re calling on the next Government to make it compulsory for all children’s audiology services in England to take part in the inspections so that parents can be confident that they are fit for purpose. As the inspections cost money and can be time consuming to prepare for, it’s vital that the Government levels the playing field by making the inspections mandatory for all services. Audiology services for deaf children won’t get better on their own.

If any general election candidates come to your door, be sure to ask them about the quality of children’s audiology services. We’ve got some other questions you might like to ask them on our election web page.

General election 2017: Getting a high-quality education for deaf children

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

In my own education and in others, I often come across the phrase “he’s coping well”. I hate the phrase. I hate it because it seems to suggest a lower set of expectations for deaf children is perfectly OK and even something to aspire to. Deaf children should not just be coping. They should be thriving, reaching for the top and being the best they can be.

As much as I would like them to, I doubt I can get the next Government to ban the word ‘coping’. But there are still a lot of other things they can do to make sure that deaf children can thrive in education and get the support they need.

Brian has already blogged about the need for the next Government to protect funding for education services for deaf children. We also want the next Government to make sure deaf children have access to a high-quality education. Two things they can do to help achieve this in England are:

  1. Get Ofsted to specifically inspect the quality of education services for deaf children. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have already begun a time-limited inspection programme of local area special educational needs support in England, something we long campaigned for. However, these inspections are looking at all children with special educational needs in a very general sense. Services for deaf children are still receiving very little scrutiny as part of this.

We think this is wrong – why should parents of deaf children get less information than other parents about the quality of support their child is receiving? We also think that local authorities would focus more on making sure deaf children get a good education if they thought Ofsted might rap them over the knuckles if they didn’t. 

  1. Set up a new bursary scheme to recruit Teachers of the Deaf to address the recruitment difficulties experienced in a number of areas. A report earlier this year found that there had been a 12% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England since 2010. In other words, 1 in 10 Teachers of the Deaf have disappeared in the last 7 years. Separately, we also know that around half of all existing Teachers of the Deaf are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. Unless action is taken to address this staffing crisis, future deaf children are going to risk having to go to schools that haven’t had any expert advice from Teachers of the Deaf or not getting the specialist attention they need.

If you think deaf children need higher quality support, make sure that candidates standing for election know how important this is to you, and ask them to commit to take action if they are elected. Our website has more information about how you can get involved in the election to make deaf children matter.

Cast a spell on the inspectors…

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

With the evenings darkening as winter creeps in, the inspectors aren’t wasting any time. Round two of the Ofsted and CQC inspections into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has kicked off faster than a Boxing Day sale (yes, the shops already have their Christmas stock in). Feeling the need for speed, the inspectors have visited five local areas in the first month.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Herefordshire, Bexley, Hartlepool, Plymouth or Surrey, you’ve already had a visit. We’re curious to know if you had any idea the inspections were taking place? Did you get involved? Give your feedback here.

Cast your spell

 If your area hasn’t been visited yet, you still have the chance to talk to inspectors about the support you get locally. All towns and cities will be inspected within the next five years, so don’t miss your opportunity to cast a spell. To find out more about what you need to do, check out The Buzz if you’re under 18 or have a look at our website.

 Trick or Treat

Reports from the first set of inspections were released over the summer holidays. Initially, in our view, the reports consisted of broad, general statements about SEND services across education, health and social care. Only four out of the seven reports released gave any specific mention of deafness, and even then, these were rarely detailed references to services.

That said, there are certainly some treats in these reports; they are the first ever focused reports into SEND services at a local level. In some reports, the inspectors have demonstrated they are listening to parents of deaf children and flagging up their concerns. Ofsted and the CQC are also making efforts to alert people to the fact these inspections are taking place on social media.

With Halloween fast approaching and reports soon to be released, it’s worth asking the question – will this next set of reports hold more tricks or treats for deaf children and young people?

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5 days to save the world! Ofsted and CQC inspections.

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

After a long period of waiting, the moment has finally arrived. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have begun inspecting special educational needs services across England.

It was all hands on deck last week when notice of two inspections landed in our inboxes. If you are lucky enough to live in Bolton or Brighton and Hove, you may have been aware that deaf young people and parents in that area have been asked to contribute. For the first two inspections, the method of choice has been online webinars. A webinar is an online meeting anyone can join where the lead inspector will give an overview of why these inspections are taking place and ask a series of questions about how children’s needs are being met and identified in that area.

When notice hits you have five days to take action. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to feedback about services for deaf children and young people in your area. In my opinion, this is your five days to save the world. Your feedback could be crucial at highlighting failings in local services. It could put pressure on local authorities and health services to bring about the changes needed to improve support for deaf children and young people.

We still have our reservations about the process and accessibility but we’ll be working with Ofsted over the coming weeks to ensure that these inspections are as open and effective as possible.

So when that email lands in your inbox, please attend the webinar or ask the lead contact at your local council to pass on your feedback to the lead inspector. You can contact us if you like but please, please take action. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?!

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Click here for more information on the Inspect the Uninspected campaign or if you discover an inspection in your area, you can tell us about it here.

What happens after GCSEs?

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

When GCSE results get released each year for deaf students, the statistics receive a lot of attention as they are an important measure of how well deaf children perform in education. However, what do we know about what happens after GCSEs in school sixth forms or in colleges? Arguably, this is even more important because few people go straight from taking GCSEs into employment these days.

Last week the Government released several tables of statistics on the achievement of those aged 16 to 19 in England including breakdowns for deaf students. I am probably a bit odd to get very excited about a set of numbers but the amount of data available to us on the progress deaf students make after the aged of 16 is pretty limited. So, I spent several hours poring over these tables to work out what they were telling us about the progress of deaf students.

What did we find out?

Firstly, it is important to understand that students take a wide variety of qualifications after the age of 16. It is not just A-levels but NVQs, BTECs, diplomas, functional skills courses, etc at different levels. We split students into two groups:

  • Those that have achieved Level 2. This is the equivalent of having five GCSEs at grades A* to C.
  • Those that have achieved Level 3. This is the equivalent of having at least two A-levels (of any grade).

The main findings were:

  • Less than half of deaf students* (43%) achieve Level 3 by the age of 19 compared with 66% of students without SEN.
  • 77% of deaf students achieve Level 2 by the age of 19. This compares with 92% of students without Special Educational Needs (SEN). This suggests that the attainment gap at Level 2 has narrowed by the age of 19.
  • However, when we look at whether students have achieved Level 2 with English and Maths the attainment gap increases to a massive 38%. This suggests that deaf students are particularly struggling to make up ground in the core subjects of English and Maths.
  • It’s not all bad news. Attainment rates have increased significantly in the last decade. For example, the Level 2 pass rate was 58% in 2007 and it is now 77%. However, large increases have also been seen for students without SEN meaning attainment gaps have stayed roughly the same.

On the whole, disappointing reading when we know that deaf students are capable of doing just as well as hearing students with the right support through their lives.

Earlier barriers to education and language development can have a knock-on effect that makes academic progression very challenging for some students. However, questions do need to be asked of post-16 providers. A recent Ofsted report into further education for learners with high needs found great variation between colleges in the quality of their support. Also, progress in Maths and English was found to be too slow.

NDCS will be looking to engage more closely with the further education sector and apprenticeship providers to make sure that they have access to information and resources to ensure that deaf students are properly supported. What happens after GCSEs? We want make sure the answer is a positive one!

*The statistics show the results for deaf students who are described as having ‘Special Educational Needs’ (SEN) in secondary school with deafness as their main type of SEN. This is not all deaf students. For example, students with mild or moderate deafness are more likely to not be recorded as having SEN. It also includes students who have additional needs that are considered secondary to their deafness.

Why Ofsted need to inspect SEND services – a parent perspective

Matt Keer, member of NDCS, guest blogs for us on the Ofsted/CQC consultation on SEND inspections.

Dear Ofsted & CQC,

I’ve got two profoundly deaf boys. I’ve sent a response to your consultation about how to inspect special educational needs and disability provision in local areas. But there was something else that I wanted to say from the heart.

Matt Keer - FamilyAs a family, deafness has been part of our lives for over 15 years now. We got through the initial storm: dealing with diagnosis, learning how to help the kids develop, protecting them when they experienced social stigma, giving them a sense of self-worth and pride in who they are.

We managed all that. We’re not special people. Tens of thousands of other parents in our shoes do the same thing every day.

But the process of getting our kids the educational support they need? The support that they have a right to by law? Getting that nearly destroyed us.

Both our boys are now at a special school for the deaf – Mary Hare School in Berkshire. It’s a school that, educationally and socially, is transforming their lives – the ‘best possible outcomes’ that the new SEND legislation aspires to. It is a truly awesome place. But it took us years to get them there.

How did that come about? Pretty simple. Our local area fought us at every turn. None of its actions was in the best interests of our kids. None of their actions even aimed at giving them an adequate education. All of their actions were deeply unprofessional; many of their actions were unlawful.

We got there in the end, as a family. We went through Tribunal, some of us broke briefly, but we mended ourselves and the boys finally – finally – now have a full shot at life. It was worth it – but it never, ever, should have been this way. It never should have been allowed to be this way.

And the worst thing? There are thousands of families in the same boat right now. Still. Despite all the change in legislation last year. Families who coped fine with the stress of disability and severe illness, who now find themselves falling apart against the gruelling, life-sapping struggle to get their kids the support they need to get a few GCSEs, life skills, and friends.

My youngest child’s best mate? He’s deaf too. He’s tough as nails. He beat leukaemia at the age of 3. But this year, he nearly fell apart with the stress of knowing that an entire local area was trying to deny him a place at the special school he needed. His LA acted unlawfully. Repeatedly, without mercy, without remorse. Because it could. Because it can. Because it is not yet accountable in any meaningful sense of the word.

This is why you have to get this right. Because there is no-one else out there both willing and able to hold local area organisations like this to account. Parents and charities like the NDCS have been holding the ring here for far, far too long. And thus far, no-one else has stepped in.

We’ve tried the local area complaints process. It’s pointless. We’ve tried the Local Government Ombudsman. It’s toothless. We need expert, independent people to inspect these organisations, without fear or favour. We need them now. And that’s where you come in.

How do I know my local area’s actions were wrong? Because along the way, I have had to read, learn and inwardly digest several hundred pages of dense legalese and education jargon. I have had to argue, resist intimidation, fight my kids’ corner, do it again and again, year after year. Not for a Rolls-Royce education. Simply to get my bright, hard-working lads a shot at basic literacy, numeracy and a peer group.

We weren’t experts when we started out. We are now, and we’ve had enough. We’re sick and tired of being the ones doing the accountability. We’ve got kids with SEND to bring up, wider family to support, jobs to hold down. Frankly, life is busy enough.

Over to you, Ofsted & CQC. Please – please – don’t bugger this up.

The Ofsted/CQC consultation closes on the 4th January so there is still time to have your say. You can respond by going to the Ofsted website. Or you can respond using a NDCS template response for parents.

The inspection you definitely want to have…

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Why Ofsted & CQC should inspect the uninspected for deaf children

I will never forget the fear of a house inspection at university or the time that my local hospital’s underperformance became the talk of the town. Simply put, scrutinising the quality and standards of the services we use has become a key part of our lives.

InspectTheUninspectedDespite this, deaf children, teenagers and their parents have been missing out for a long time. Ofsted & CQC’s local area consultation into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has given us a rare opportunity to have services for deaf children and young people monitored for the first time. We are asking you to take action and respond to the consultation to make sure this happens.

Ofsted and CQC are currently finding out what parents and young people think about new proposals to inspect SEND services. Inspectors will look into a ‘wide range of groups of children and young people’ with a range of disabilities and needs. Here are our concerns with the proposals:

  • The quality of support provided by Teachers of the Deaf will not be inspected
  • Inspectors will look at SEND overall and not the specific needs of each group
  • Inspections will not be graded, i.e. outstanding or good
  • We don’t yet know what will happen if a service is failing
  • With only 2 days’ notice, it will be difficult for working parents and young people in education to feed into the review
  • We want to ensure that children, young people and parents interviewed have experience of deafness.

When choosing schools and local services, we believe that parents and deaf young people should be able to make an informed choice. Having access to information about the quality of your local services is a crucial part of breaking down barriers facing deaf young people in education, health and wider society.

It’s time to tell Ofsted and CQC that their plans require improvement, we must demand outstanding services for our deaf children and young people.

Three ways to take action

  1. Join our Inspect the Uninspected campaign to call on Ofsted and the CQC to rethink their approach to SEND inspections.
  2. Get involved and respond to the consultation.
  3. Spread the message on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #inspecttheuninspected.

More information

The consultation will run until 4 January and you can find out more information about how to feed into it on our website.