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.

 

Education for deaf children – a review of the past five years

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Apparently, there’s a big general election coming up on the 7th May. One of the factors that voters may be taking into account is the coalition government’s record over the past five years. But in terms of support for deaf children, what do we know about what’s changed?

With this in mind, our next few blogs will explore a few key areas in relation to deaf children. Starting with education:

1. Have deaf children achieved better outcomes?

Yes and no. Because the Government has changed the way that they calculate their GCSE figures on how many deaf children achieve 5 GCSEs (including English and Maths) at grades A* to C (or “5 good GCSEs”), it’s difficult to make like for like comparisons over the past five years.

Back in 2010, 36% of deaf children achieved 5 good GCSEs. In 2014, the same figure was 36.3% under the government’s new methodology. So, on that basis, deaf children aren’t doing that much better. However, if the 2014 figures had been calculated using the same methodology as in previous years, the figure would have been 40%.

Between 2007 and 2010, the GCSE figures (also under the old methodology), the number of deaf children achieving 5 good GCSEs rose from 27% to 36%.

A key NDCS campaign is to close the gap in attainment between deaf and other children. The figures suggest a slight narrowing of the gap from 46% to around 42-44% since 2010. NDCS would hope to be seeing a much faster narrowing of the gap than that shown over the past five years.

NDCS’s website features more analysis of the government attainment figures

2. Have deaf children been getting the support they need?

The Government protected school funding for the whole of the five years and in 2014/15, the Government increased what’s known as the ‘high needs’ budget for those who need more support. They have also sent a clear signal to local authorities that they expect them to protect funding for the most vulnerable learners.

A less known detail is that the Government allowed funding for services for deaf children and other children with special educational needs to be kept by the local authority. The alternative – where schools were giving a slice of the pie and then expected to buy back support – could have led to the fragmentation of services so this was an important policy decision.

Disappointingly though, in our view, the Government has not done enough to ensure that local authorities do indeed protect funding for vulnerable learners. We know from the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign, that funding hasn’t been protected at a local level, or at least in relation to deaf children. We’ve had to campaign hard to prevent cuts to vital services for deaf children across the country.

There has also been a decline in the number of Teachers of the Deaf. Figures from the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education suggest a 3% decline in Teachers of the Deaf last year, with the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf falling below 1,000 in England last year for the first time. This is despite the fact that that the number of deaf children has not gone down and that there is a still a significant number who are not achieving good outcomes.

3. Has the support that deaf children been receiving been good enough?

A big priority for the Government over the past five years has been to reform the special educational needs (SEN) framework, which outlines how deaf and other children should be supported to achieve their potential. This culminated in the Children and Families Act 2014 and new statutory guidance, the SEN and Disability Code of Practice. Key changes include:

  • A new requirement to publish a Local Offer, setting out what support will be available locally
  • More rights for young people over the age of 16, with a new joined up 0 to 25 system
  • New explicit principles around ‘co-production’ and involvement of parents and young people

More information about these changes can be found in the NDCS SEN reform FAQ.

These changes came into force in September 2014. The Government have been among the first to admit that it will be some time before these changes start to be felt in day to day practice and NDCS has yet to see a fall in demand for support from parents of deaf children to help them resolve issues concerning their child’s education.

There are a range of views over whether these changes were a good idea or not. NDCS was disappointed that the key question of how the Government would ensure that local authorities would actually follow these new laws was left until rather late in the day. Ofsted have now been invited to consider how local areas will be scrutinised for the quality of their provision but there is still considerable uncertainty over how Ofsted will do this and whether they will really look in detail into the quality of services of deaf children. A consultation is expected after the election.

One final area where the Government has taken action is around acoustics in schools. Prior to 2010, following a big NDCS campaign, the previous Government committed to a number of steps to improve the quality of acoustics in schools. These largely fell by the wayside when the new Government came into power and there were fears that acoustics regulations would be scrapped in a “bonfire of regulations”. Fortunately, the Government decided to keep them, sending a signal that schools should ensure they have the best possible listening environments. NDCS would still like the Government to go further, in introducing mandatory acoustic testing of new schools and ensuring that early year settings also have good acoustics too.

Trying to do justice to five years of education policy in a single blog is a challenge and the above does not attempt to cover everything or to touch on wider education changes that impact on all children, such as on curriculum and exams. We hope it provides some food for thought though. Let us know what you think about our summary evaluation by leaving a comment below.

Campaign win! Minister recommends the inspection of SEN services!

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

We are pleased to announce some Christmas cheer! Following a long-running campaign from NDCS, the Government has today announced that they are recommending the future inspection of local SEN services!

Many deaf children rely on support from local authority services for children with special educational needs (SEN). Currently, the quality of support that these children get from visiting Teachers of the Deaf and local authority SEN services has received virtually no scrutiny from Ofsted inspectors at all. It has been up to parents to police these services and report any issues.

Today the Department for Education released a statement saying that the Minister:

“has today also invited Ofsted to formally inspect local areas on their effectiveness in fulfilling their new duties. They will do this along with the Care Quality Commission and a local authority officer.

It is hoped that robust and rigorous inspections will ensure that parents and young people receive as much information as possible about what is being offered.”

NDCS has long been calling for greater scrutiny of these services as part of the Stolen Futures campaign. We’ve argued that it’s easier for local authorities to cut services for deaf children if they know they won’t be held to account for the impact of these cuts by Ofsted. Getting Ofsted to inspect services was one of the key asks in the Stolen Futures parliamentary debate last year – which only came about because 51,000 campaigners signed a petition calling for a debate.

However the hard work is not over yet. We still need to see the detail of how the new Ofsted inspections will work and make sure that proper attention is paid to services for deaf children. We won’t stop until local authority services for deaf children are properly held to account for failing to close the attainment gap between deaf and hearing children.

We will continue to keep you updated. In the meantime, we’d like to thank all of our members for their persistence and patience in campaigning on this issue. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

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

1

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!

Trophy

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.

r_seaman@hotmail.com

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.

Emily’s Story: How different things may have been

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Support Assistant

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Support Assistant

“Go outside to the end of the playground and try and listen to what I am saying; to show everyone how it works!”

I reluctantly head outside, and turn the radio aid on, and my class teacher starts talking into the microphone.  Of course, I can’t hear her as the radio aid doesn’t do anything at all for me, let alone lip-read because the teacher is too far in the distance. The whole class peer out of the window staring at me in fascination of how the radio aid works. And this is the earliest memory I have of being at primary school.

I was only 7 years old, and of course was too young to express my embarrassment. I was the only deaf child in the school, and at the time I felt I was happy, and whenever people said ‘you were the only deaf child in school?!’ I was happy to say yes, and that it was pretty plain sailing for me.

But then as I got older, and started to make deaf friends, I realised that I just ‘put up with it.’ And that wasn’t good enough. I was too young to stand up for myself and say, ‘I want a Communication Support Worker’ or to say ‘I don’t understand.’

Often in class I was too shy to put up my hand, in case I misunderstood the teacher’s question. This had happened many times, and so it made me not want to shoot my hand up because I worried I would say the wrong thing. It wasn’t just in the classroom that I struggled at times; I often found school plays so boring, as when it came to singing, I just moved my mouth up and down to make it look like I was singing!

It wasn’t all that bad though, I met my best friend in year 5 who I am still best friends with to this day, and she helped me a lot. Thanks to her, I made lots of other friends. She helped bridge the gap between me and hearing children in school.

Emily

Emily, aged three

I went to Mary Hare School when I was 11, and that was the first time I realised I wasn’t the only deaf kid. And I felt I really belonged, as it felt so nice being able to communicate with everyone the way I knew how.  I have friends for life, and it made me the person I am today.

I worked at Roding School for two years as a Teaching Assistant (TA), which is a pretty amazing school. It is a mainstream primary school with 40 deaf children. I worked in a class with four deaf children, and they had a great Communication Support Worker in class. Their job is to empower deaf children, to give them a voice, to give them a deaf ‘identity’, to teach them to be assertive, to put their hand up and to say if they don’t understand. And I had to admit I felt a bit envious for them, as I didn’t have that.

I had a lot of support in primary school yes, thanks to the Teacher of the Deaf and TA but couldn’t help wonder how different things may have been if I had the confidence to speak up.

So if your deaf child starts in primary school, do find out what support they can receive, and tell them that they have a choice and don’t always assume they are doing ok if they don’t say anything.

I have just started working as a Campaigns Support Assistant for NDCS in the Policy and Campaigns Team, and I am really excited to get stuck in. I want to be a part of making a change in deaf children’s lives. The NDCS Campaigns Team do an amazing job for deaf children, and with your help, a small difference can go a long way.

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!