Crossing the Divide

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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

Further education (FE) is getting a lot of attention at the moment and rightly so. The UK has major skills shortages in many sectors and Brexit may mean we are less likely to be able to rely on EU immigration to plug the skills gap. The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, as I type this blog, has just made a speech where she talked about creating ‘an army of skilled young people for British business’. To address skills shortages the Government is creating 15 technical routes and new T-level qualifications in England. Wales is also on the verge of significant post-16 education reform.

FE colleges will play a major role in delivering the new qualifications and with FE colleges being the destination for the majority of deaf young people at 16, investment in the new technical routes will be no bad thing if they lead to clearer pathways to employment.

Recently, a small piece of research was carried out for us by a group of civil servants and corporate sector employees on the transition deaf young people make from FE into employment and the support they receive to do this in FE. We asked them to look at this issue because there is so little data out there on the outcomes of deaf young people who attend FE colleges – are they finding jobs after leaving college and how well prepared are they for entering the job market? We suspected that the support available to them to find work might be quite poor. Sadly, the research confirmed that this is probably the case. The main findings of the group’s research were:

  • 59% of parents of deaf young people stated their child’s college did not help them find any work experience or placement opportunities
  • 39% of parents stated their child had not received any careers support or guidance at college
  • Young people who had received college-supported work experience were more likely to have gone onto employment or further study

Some parents reported negative experiences with their child making the transition to work:

“It was disappointing that on his first visit to the Job Centre, in an effort to find employment, they put him on ESA (Employment Support Allowance) without the necessity to attend support sessions. In other words, he was written off as being unemployable”

“We didn’t know what help was available. Recruitment companies didn’t seem to be interested in helping my daughter get a job and I put this down to her being deaf.”

This type of experiences provide a strong case for deaf young people having access to tailored careers advice at school and college. It is not just about access to careers advice that their hearing course-mates receive. Do young people know that they can benefit from Access to Work? Do they understand their rights under the Equality Act? Are they aware of the organisations that might be able to provide further support when they leave education? We believe schools and colleges have a role in making sure deaf young people receive this type of information.

deaf young person looking for work

It is expected that work experience will be a compulsory part of a T-level – this is welcome and we need to make sure deaf young people receive the support they need on these placements.

FE and skills reform has cross-party support and I believe that better investment in FE will benefit many deaf young people. However, before they embark on any technical routes, we need to fight for deaf young people to have better access to decent careers advice so that they can make properly informed decisions about the career opportunities available to them and understand support that is available in the workplace.

I’m deaf myself and remember leaving education to find work being very daunting. I am sure it is the same many deaf young people finishing education today. Through working together with the FE and skills sector NDCS hopes to make the divide between education and work a lot narrower.

Young leaders in Wales

Lorna

Lorna Langton, Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect

The quiet little seaside town of Colwyn Bay may seem like an unlikely place to invite a group of 14-18 year olds for the weekend but boy did we have a great time! As part of our Gearing Up project, Young Leaders made the most of every opportunity to have fun, learn and make some great friendships on this year’s North Wales Young Leader training course.

Our Young Leaders came from all across Wales, from as far as Cardiff to just a few train stops down the line at Bangor. After everyone had registered we headed off to a fantastic dinner at The Station restaurant just a short walk from where we were staying. This was a lovely chance to enjoy some good food and all get to know each other. By the end of the meal one member of staff, who we discovered is doing his Level 2 BSL at the moment, even treated us to a little magic show!

Saturday morning started with breakfast at our training venue Porth Eirias, what a fab location and the staff were so helpful, it really couldn’t be faulted. The amazing bacon butties and pastries that were waiting for us as we arrived really helped give us all the brain power needed for the day ahead.

The Young Leader programme aims to build deaf young people’s confidence, develop valuable life skills and give them an opportunity to make new deaf friends who have similar experiences to them. This weekend we started with a workshop to establish what the group thought the definition of a young leader was and then we took advantage of the great location on the beach to get out and do some team building activities. The group were really engaged and really added their own spin on their idea of leadership and the people in their lives who they looked up to as role models.

That afternoon we had Pete from the Wales Ambulance Service join us to train the
young people in CPR. They all got stuck in and learned a valuable life saving skill that everyone agreed was really important and helped them build confidence in tcpr-WalesBlog2016heir ability to act in an emergency situation in the future. The young people brought up some interesting views around being young and deaf and having the confidence to take charge in an emergency situation. Then it was time to grab our things and head off to the ski slope for snowboarding training. We were so lucky with the weather and our coaches at Llandudno Ski Centre we’re supportive and made it so much fun. It was great to see the group grow in confidence and ability over the 2 days.

Sunday started with an inspiring and thought provoking deaf role model talk from Dr Andrew Davies of Bangor University. He spoke about the young people finding whatever they were passionate about and taking control of their own education making decisions that would ensure they achieved their aspirations as he had done.

After that stirring session, the young people were all fired up and sparking with ideas when it came to the workshop on our bursary scheme; the Pay it Forward Fund. They came up with ideas that would develop them as individuals, support their communities and help them give back and be role models for younger deaf children and young people in Wales. A few of the Young Leaders submitted applications to the fund in the days after this event.at the beach- WalesBlogJune2016

I’m also delighted that so many of the young people who are involved with the Gearing Up project have already been inspired to use their new skills, interest and confidence to support our young campaigners network in Wales. Any deaf young person who wants to know more about what we campaign on, or who would like to get involved in campaigning can email  campaigns.wales@ndcs.org for more information.

I’m so excited to see how the Pay it Forward Fund develops and I look forward to updating you all in my next blog.

Bye for now,

Lorna Langton

Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect

What happens after GCSEs?

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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.

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.

What are the parties promising to do to help deaf children in education?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Last week, we took a look at the government’s record over the past five years. This week, we’ve been having a rummage through the manifestos from each of the main political parties to find out what are each of the main parties promising to do – if elected – in relation to education, health and welfare and how might this impact on deaf children? This blog kicks off with education.

Funding

The Conservatives have said they will protect funding for schools on a per pupil basis. This means that, if the number of pupils go up, schools shouldn’t lose out. But it also means that schools might get less money in real terms if inflation goes up. It also means that funding for early years education and post-16 is not protected.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they will protect all education funding in real terms. This means that if inflation goes up, early year settings, schools and post-16 colleges shouldn’t lose out. But, if the number of pupils goes up – which it is expected to do in schools by 7% – then education settings won’t get any extra money to cover this increase.

The Green party has said it will restore education funding to 2010 levels in real terms.

UKIP make no specific pledges on education spending but their manifesto indicates they wish to reduce government spending overall.

Over the past five years, schools funding has been protected by the Government. However, as the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign has found, this protection hasn’t been carried through at a local level. We’re disappointed that none of the manifestos contain any real pledges that would ensure that local authorities will be held to account if they fail to protect funding for vulnerable learners, such as deaf children.

Special educational needs

Over the past five years, the Government introduced significant changes to the special educational needs (SEN) framework (via the Children and Families Act 2014). None of the parties appear to be proposing any major changes to this new framework. Below we set out where SEN gets mentioned in the manifestos:

  • The Conservatives make no new specific pledges in relation to SEN but highlight that they have created 2,200 more special schools places through their free schools programme, introduced a new coordinated assessment process to determine a child or young person’s needs (known as Education, Health and Care needs assessments) and have asked Ofsted to formally inspect local areas for their effectiveness in fulfilling their duties to children with SEN and disabilities.
  • The Liberal Democrats have pledged to improve the identification of SEN and disability at the earliest possible stage. They have also pledged to enshrine the UN Convention on Rights of Child into law. This could potentially provide deaf children with a range of new legal rights.
  • Labour have said they will improve training for mainstream teachers on SEN and disability.
  • The Green party have said that every disabled child should have a right to mainstream education. They also support a key role for local authorities in planning, admissions policy and equality of access for children with SEN
  • UKIP state that they will reverse any policy of closing special schools.

NDCS is keen to see Ofsted take a role in inspecting local authority education services for deaf children to make sure deaf children are getting the support they need. A consultation is expected after the election – but it’s not yet clear if Ofsted will take a more detailed look at provision for deaf children, or just look at SEN in general.

Post 16

The Liberal Democrats appear to be the only party to make reference to Disabled Students’ Allowance – which provides support to deaf students in university and which the current Government is proposing to cut back. The Liberal Democrats pledge to ensure students with disabilities receive appropriate support in their university studies, and to review the impact of any recent changes.

The Labour party disability mini manifesto indicates that they will ensure that young disabled people have the same chances as non-disabled people to study for the vocational or degree qualifications.

The above is a very general summary of the pledges and we’ve only highlighted those that we think are most directly relevant to deaf children. We’ve included links to the manifestos above if you’d like more information about what each of the parties are proposing.

Education is devolved to the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales so we haven’t covered pledges from parties in these nations in this blog. The below websites have more information on what these parties are pledging:

Don’t forget, 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 has information on the candidates in your area and our website has more information on the election, including a detailed election factsheet.

 

3 changes to DSA that affect deaf young people

Freya Riddel

Freya Riddel, Education and Training Policy Advisor

The Government is proposing changes to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) in England. This has been a valuable tool in enabling more students with disabilities to attend University and reach high academic attainment. The DSA has given deaf students the flexibility to purchase a support package personalised to their needs, so that they could effectively access and engage with the content and teaching of their course.

1) Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) will no longer fund non-specialist, non-medical help. This would include a laptop and manual note-taker. Instead, instead a greater responsibility will be placed on the universities themselves to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act. Universities will not receive any extra funding to fulfil these responsibilities.

2) Support for deaf students is not guaranteed. Relying on the Equality Act means that there is no guarantee that the University will provide the necessary support, and this support is likely to be inconsistent across different universities.

3) If the university refuses to provide support arguing that it is not ‘reasonable’, or the support is inadequate, there is no guidance as to how an individual could challenge this decision.

We have written more about these changes and our concerns on our website.

NDCS is calling on the government to drop these proposals until it carries out a full public consultation and impact assessment so that it can demonstrate that deaf and other disabled students will not be unfairly disadvantaged as a result. Help us campaign by joining our Campaigns Network today.

We would also like to hear of any experiences from deaf students currently receiving DSA – how important is it for you? What do you use it for? Let us know in the comments section below, or email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

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!