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.



Getting to know GIRFEC in BSL

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Getting It Right For Every Child (aka GIRFEC) is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. But what does this mean?

To help explain, the ALLIANCE have created five new films on GIRFEC and what this means for children and young people in Scotland. What’s more, the videos are aimed at being as accessible to as many people as possible and are in British Sign Language.

We attended the launch event for the films on 4 November along with other third sector organisations, children, parents and professionals. Speaking at the event was the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, who highlighted that “the Scottish Government is committed to equality for disabled and deaf children in Scotland.”

It is hoped the films will raise awareness and understanding of GIRFEC for children and young people and their families/carers who use BSL. This is especially important because GIRFEC is due to become law in August 2016 through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

All of the films are available on the Alliance website here, or directly from YouTube here.

To find out more contact:

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.

PIP’d Off Campaign Update – Justin Tomlinson meeting…

Jessica Reeves Campaigns Manager

Jessica Reeves, Campaigns Manager

Last week, after over 800 of our supporters wrote to him, we met with the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson to talk about why people are so PIP’d Off with the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) process. NDCS Chief Executive, Susan Daniels and I met with Justin and representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions to explain how deaf young people are currently missing out on PIP.

We discussed the following issues, which you had raised with us:

YAB member Liam O'Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

YAB member Liam O’Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

  • Why so many deaf young people are missing out on PIP because the current guidance fails to recognise the support that many deaf young people require to communicate with their hearing peers
  • How face to face assessments are putting deaf young people at a disadvantage by placing them in unrealistic situations which do not take into account the difficulties that many deaf young people face in the real world, in noisey environments, trying to engage with non deaf aware people
  • The fact that deaf young people currently have to telephone to ask for an application form and how NDCS can help make sure that a digital claim process is available quickly and is accessible to young deaf claimants

The meeting was really productive and Justin was interested to hear about the issues that young deaf people are currently facing and he has said that he is keen to improve the system.

We will now be working with the Department of Work and Pensions to improve the current PIP guidance and improve deaf awareness at assessments.

I want to say a big thank you to all our supporters and Campaigns Network members without which this excellent result would not have been possible.

We will keep you posted!

New legislation marks historic moment for deaf community in Scotland

Heather Gray

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland & Northern Ireland)

What does the newly passed British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill mean for deaf children and their families? Heather Gray, Director for NDCS Scotland and Northern Ireland blogged for Third Force News last week and shared her views…

The Scottish Parliament is to be congratulated on voting to pass the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill into law last week on Thursday 17 September 2015.

The passage of the Bill marks an historic moment for the entire deaf community across Scotland, many of whom have British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language.

By ensuring public authorities promote and raise awareness of BSL, the Bill –  the first of its kind in the UK – will help to embed the language more fully into Scottish society and culture.  And the provision for BSL users to be consulted on the development of public bodies’ BSL plans should stimulate real debate about how best to meet their needs.

The National Deaf Children’s Society hopes this ground-breaking legislation will become a foundation for the promotion of the language in Scotland long into the future. We strongly believe that if fully implemented the Bill will ultimately help create more choices and opportunities for deaf children and young people and help them achieve their full potential.

There are as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland. While there is a lack of national data about their language preferences, a survey of local authorities suggests around 15% use sign language in some way.

There can be real challenges in meeting the unique needs these deaf children and young people who use British Sign Language. With only around 80 qualified interpreters across Scotland and a lack of a robust qualifications framework, consistent access to high quality communication support can be challenging.

The Scottish Government is to be commended for its acknowledgement of these challenges in its support for the Bill and its investment in online translation service Contact Scotland. The challenge is now for them to set out an ambitious National Plan that will drive progress for deaf children and their families.

Deaf young people and their families have told us what they think should be in the National BSL Plan, including:

  • Closing the education attainment gap for deaf learners, as highlighted in the recent Inquiry undertaken by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee;
  • Establishing and regulating a qualifications framework for communication support in education;
  • Establishing BSL as an accredited school qualification within the modern languages curriculum, via the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework;
  • Improving the availability of early years support, so that deaf children have the best start in life.  This includes improving the availability of family Sign Language courses, which help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

Achieving real inclusion for the deaf community will take time, investment and strong national and local leadership. However, the BSL Bill is a welcome significant step forward in this journey. It provides us with an enabling framework that could ultimately lead to more effective service provision, better opportunities, and improved life chances for deaf children and young people across Scotland.


Date set for final vote on the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

We are excited to announce that the Stage 3 debate and final vote by MSPs on whether to pass the Bill is due to take place in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September. With the Bill on course to become law, here we provide a quick overview.

The Bill aims to raise awareness of BSL and improve access to services for those using the language. It does this by requiring the Scottish Government and other local bodies to publish and implement their own plans on how they will promote the use of the language. It can therefore be considered as an enabling framework to public authorities for the promotion of BSL within their services. The Bill does not outline specific provision authorities must provide. It does, however, set out principles which listed authorities must have regard to. These principles will be contained in the National Plan.

It is our recommendation that the National Plan has a strong focus on child-centred provision and early-intervention, to ensure deaf children are given the best start in life and are supported to reach their full potential. In particular, we recommend that the National Plan addresses:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap experienced by deaf learners;
  2. Minimum levels of qualification in BSL for education practitioners; to ensure deaf learners are supported by Communication Support Workers who are able to accurately interpret what the teacher is saying;
  3. BSL becoming an accredited school qualification and having the same status as other languages;
  4. Improving the availability of Family Sign Language and other family support;
  5. Ensuring aspirations of the Bill are appropriately resourced.

NDCS welcomes the Bill and believes that it could act as a critical step in strengthening the position of the language in Scotland. If passed, the Bill has the potential to support more deaf children and their families to access their right to the support they need.

Action: Does your MSP support the Bill? Email your MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of passing the Bill.

For more information contact:

Broken promises in education?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Today is the first anniversary of the Children and Families Act 2014. This made lots of big changes to the education system with the Government promising that the changes would result in children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities getting better support.

But you may want to hold on before getting any birthday candles out…. when we asked parents of deaf children recently if they had noticed any improvements to the support that their child receives over the past year, we were pretty shocked that only 6% said they had.

This is one of many worrying stats in a new campaign report called One year on, being published today by the National Deaf Children’s Society. The report includes the results from our survey of parents of deaf children, as well as views from deaf young people and our analysis of the quality of information that local authorities are providing through their ‘Local Offers’ (one of the big changes made last year).

Some other shocking stats from the report include:

  • Only one in ten parents of deaf children were confident that their local authority is successfully implementing the changes.
  • Only 16% of families had seen the Local Offer for where they live.
  • Of those that had seen their Local Offer, 24% said it was easy to find the information they were looking for and 28% reported that the Local Offer gave them information about support for deaf children in their area.
  • Only 7% of parents said their child had been afforded a direct opportunity to help develop the Local Offer and give their views on it.

    Email your MP button about the broken promise in education

    Email your MP about these broken promises in education

  • When we looked the information provided within Local Offers, we found that in 41 Local Offers, it was hard to find information about special schools and resource provisions in the area. 93 local authorities didn’t provide information about specialist provision outside of their own area.
  • Where deaf children were undergoing an assessment for an Education, Health and Care plan (which are replacing statements of SEN), 29% did not feel that the local authority took steps to minimise disruption to their family during the assessment process and 58% had to repeat the same information about their child to different people – both things that families were told would change under the new system.

Overall, our analysis suggests that many local authorities are not doing a great job in implementing these changes and that some may in fact be acting unlawfully. For example, by law, the Local Offer must include information on special schools in the area and nearby, yet our analysis suggests that many are failing to do so.

You could argue that these are just teething troubles and that more time is needed for these changes to bed in. But it’s worth remembering that many of the above changes were piloted for over 2 years in advance of September 2014. Press releases from the Department for Education at the time trumpeted how many local authorities reported being ready for the changes. And the Department for Education has funded a wide range of bodies (including the National Deaf Children’s Society) to support local authorities in implementing these changes.

The National Deaf Children’s Society report makes a number of recommendations to help the Department for Education and local authorities keep their promises to parents of deaf children. At the top of the list is making sure that Ofsted hold local authorities to account. We’ve been long-promised a new inspection framework. But, one year on, there hasn’t yet been a consultation document on how this will work. And early indications suggest that any inspections will be fairly general and won’t have any specific focus on the specialist education services that deaf children rely and which are key to making sure these reforms work for deaf children.

You can support our campaign work in this area by emailing your MP and asking them to raise our concerns with the Government. And if you want to find out more yourself about these changes and your rights under the new system, take a look at the factsheets on our website.

The Government made a range of promises that children with special educational needs and disabilities would get better support. One year on, it’s time to hold the Government to these promises.