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.

A Day in the Life of a Parenting Facilitator

 

Anne Frances Mason

Anne-Frances Mason, Raising a Deaf Child Facilitator

Think parenting courses are all naughty steps and no fun? Think again, as Anne-Frances, one of our fabulous facilitators explains…

Many of you will have heard of ‘Raising a Deaf Child’, the parenting course designed and endorsed by National Deaf Children’s Society. For those of you who haven’t, allow me to provide you with a sneaky snapshot of the course.

My background in social work means I have experience of delivering a range of parenting classes over the years. But sorry, I have come to the conclusion that this practice of running participants through programmes from A-Z often leaves people with more questions than answers.

My current role as a Raising a Deaf Child facilitator could not be more different and here’s why:

The shape changes. The sessions might be in workshop form, a one-off weekend, regular blocks of short, sharp sessions or a taster slotted into a special event.

The sequence changes. We might begin at the end and skip backwards. Why? Because parents prioritise the topics and ‘Everyone Together’ listens.

At the heart of my job as facilitator is my duty and privilege to remind every parent and carer of a deaf child that they are the expert when it comes to their child. Parents sometimes forget this. But please don’t forget that we are all different and it is vital that we celebrate the world of differences for each deaf child.

Finally, it is only fair to make mention of the secret ingredients that have made the Raising a Deaf Child a success. Apart from the food, the fun, the ice-breakers and the guest speakers, there is that parent sitting opposite who has experienced almost exactly the same as the parent who is climbing the walls. They’ve been there, they know, and their insight is passed on. Peer power in action.

But don’t just take it from me, come and see for yourself!

The ‘Everyone Together’ project is funded by Big Lottery Fund, and supports families with a deaf child aged 0-8 years in Scotland. To find out more about our 2017 workshops, visit the Everyone Together events page.

Help us protect the future for deaf students

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (post-14)

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (post-14)

I risk being accused of bragging here, but in my lifetime I have managed to complete not one but three degrees – a BSc, a PGCE and an MA. I could not have completed any of them without Disabled Student Allowances (DSAs). This is government funding that disabled students can apply for to pay for equipment and support costs at university. For me it has covered the costs of radio aids, note takers, BSL interpreters and speech to text reporters. Thanks to DSAs thousands of deaf people can now call themselves graduates.

However, this is an age of austerity and public spending is being scrutinised. Last year the Government in England announced that it wanted to make changes to DSAs in order to redress the balance between funding from DSAs and the contribution Higher Education (HE) providers make towards disabled students’ support costs. These included:

  1. Removing DSAs funding for some types of less-specialised support workers such as note takers, proof readers and study support assistants. Instead it is proposed that they will now be funded by universities as reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.
  2. Removing DSAs funding for adaptations to student accommodation managed by universities.
  3. Removing DSAs funding for some types of IT equipment and accessories.

NDCS is concerned. I do not have enough word space to talk about all of the proposals in detail here but let’s focus on note takers as they are currently used by lots of deaf students. They provide a valuable service for those relying on lip-reading or BSL interpreters which make it very difficult to take comprehensive notes during lectures and classes (trust me – try writing and lip-reading at the same time!). We fear that if note takers are no longer funded through DSAs and left to universities to fund we could see universities seek alternatives such as:

  • referring deaf students to lecture handouts. From my experience, handouts from lecturers can be very variable – some will provide detailed documents whilst with others you’ll be lucky to get anything more than a reading list they put together in 1995.
  • or encouraging deaf students to photocopy the notes of a fellow student. Thinking back to my frequently hungover and half-awake peers I dread to think what would have happened if my education had been dependent on quality of the notes of whoever happened to be sitting next to me!

Earlier this year NDCS Youth Advisory Board member Zanna Messenger Jones initiated legal action to challenge the Government’s proposals on the grounds of insufficient consultation (among others). The Government backed down and last month launched a public consultation which is now open to individuals and organisations to respond to. There is a response form consisting of 25 questions that can be completed online. Click here to see NDCS’s draft response.

We are encouraging deaf young people to contribute their views to the consultation. The 25 question response form is not particularly easy to complete. Therefore, NDCS has created a friendlier version of the form that the government has agreed to accept. The views of deaf people who currently are at university or have recently finished are particularly welcome as they will have experience of requesting universities to make reasonable adjustments.

It should be noted that the government is not proposing that more specialised support such as BSL interpreters or electronic note takers should no longer be funded by DSAs. However, these services still fall under the scope of the consultation questions.

It is not only England that these changes are being considered but Wales too with the Welsh government having carried out an engagement exercise earlier this year. NDCS believes that without sufficient safeguards the Government’s proposals risk making Higher Education less accessible to deaf young people or leaving disabled students in limbo where they get no support because the university can’t agree what reasonable adjustments it should make. It would be a crime if the achievement rates of deaf people in higher education were to fall in the drive to cut costs.

To respond to the consultation visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/disabled-students-in-higher-education-funding-proposals.

Or young people can complete our modified version.

Make sure you get your response in by the deadline of 24th September.

Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

This is part 2 of my blog on the needs of deaf children who are fostered or in local authority care. It outlines a recent project that NDCS has started to identify and support deaf children and young people in this area.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and raise their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities’ planning services. We also needed to include independent fostering agencies who are a significant provider of services used by local authorities to indentify and provide placements for children who require care.

We therefore undertook a project to identify and consult with foster carers of deaf children and deaf children who are in, or have experienced, care.

What foster carers told us

Too often foster carers spoke about a lack of information in preparation of caring for a deaf child by children’s social care and them having to seek out information as they went along. Often social workers, although supportive, were felt to lack an understanding of the child’s needs related to their deafness and how this may impact on their care giving role.

What deaf children and young people told us

In our consultation with deaf children and young people they highlighted the difficulties of having to move from their family and home and the importance of social workers and their carers being able to communicate with them.

New resources

As a first response to our consultation we felt that there was a clear need to provide quick and accessible basic information to foster carers; children’s home workers and fostering social workers around the potential needs of deaf children and young people. Such information is vital to support those crucial first hours and days when a child becomes fostered or goes into alternative placements.

We have therefore produced two new short resources which are available to download from our website and cover the range of topics including communication; hearing aids; sounds and how we hear; and links to further help within NDCS resources.

These are being sent to all UK local authorities and independent fostering agencies and have been welcomed by our consulting foster carers who have said that they wished such information as presented in these resources had been available to them before their placements had started.

Future plans for the project

We hope to follow this up later this year with a resource, produced by deaf young people who are in care, for deaf children when they come into care. We will also continue to encourage local authorities and independent fostering agencies to better plan services to meet the needs of deaf children. One local authority has already recognised their need to improve services and is working with NDCS to provide training on the needs of deaf children to their short and long term foster carers.

I hope to inform you in future blogs as to how this project develops. At NDCS we will continue to campaign for the recognition of deaf children’s needs within social care provision at a local and national level.

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor

Our new resources can be downloaded at

http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/fostering_deaf_children/

For more information on fostering go to

http://www.baaf.org.uk/info/fostering