Radio aids in the early years – your rights

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

We published research last year which shows that radio aids – which provide deaf children with additional amplification – can have a big impact in their early years development. In particular, they can make it easier for children to hear their parents and others more clearly when, for example, in the buggy or in a car. Despite these clear benefits, many local authorities do not make radio aids available to parents of pre-school deaf children to use at home.

We’re calling on local authorities to work with health bodies to review their policy on this issue and to ensure that parents are given the opportunity to try a radio aid with their children aged 0-4 , both at home as well as in early years settings to see if it works well for them.

Quality standards on the use of personal radio aids state that every deaf child should be considered for a radio aid at first hearing aid fitting.  However, families tell us that this does not always happen.  So what should parents do if the local authority says no? Here’s a brief summary of your options in challenging this:

First, you should ask for information on why your child has been turned down for a radio aid. In some cases, there may be good reasons why a radio aid is not the right option at this time. It’s also possible that a Teacher of the Deaf may have concerns about loss or damage to equipment. Having an open discussion may help to find possible solutions to any issues.

If the answer is still no, you can challenge this decision in two different ways.

  • If your child already has an Education, Health and Care plan (England), a statement of special educational needs (Wales and Northern Ireland) or a co-ordinated support plan (Scotland), you can also ask for a review of the plan/statement so that a radio aid can be added to it. You also have the right to request an assessment for a plan or statement if your child does not already have one. Our website has more information about your rights under laws for children with special or additional needs.
  • You can also make a formal complaint to the local authority on the grounds of disability discrimination. In particular, if you live in England, Scotland and Wales, local authorities and education settings are required, under the Equality Act 2010, to provide ‘auxiliary aids’ (which includes radio aids) as a reasonable adjustment to disabled people. They are also required to take steps under the Public Sector Equality Duty to proactively remove any disadvantage that disabled children may experience. Given the importance of good language and communication in the early years, we think it should be seen as unreasonable to deny a family with a deaf child a radio aid unless there are good reasons why not. Our website has more information about the Equality Act and how it can be used in education.
  • If the local authority still says no, you can appeal to a special Tribunal that hears cases about potential disability discrimination and/or a failure to follow laws relating to special or additional needs. There are time limits, so it is important to get more advice or information as soon as this happens.

For more information and advice, you can contact our Helpline. You can also borrow a radio aid through our Technology Test Drive.

If you have already made a complaint to your local authority or are still experiencing challenges, please do get in touch. We’re looking for families who, with lots of support from us, might be interested in taking legal action on radio aids in the early years – you can find more information about this in our short video.

Seven things we’ve learnt from the latest CRIDE report

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

Last week, the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) published the latest results for England from its annual survey of education services for deaf children. Though it has its limitations, it’s one of the best sources of data out there on deaf children and the report managed to attract a fair bit of media coverage (including in the Huffington Post and the Guardian). In this blog, I set out my own personal take on seven key findings from the report

1. There are more deaf children

Or, at least, there are more deaf children that local authorities know about. There are now at least 45,631 deaf children in England, a reported 11% increase over the previous year. It’s difficult to be sure whether this is because there are genuinely more deaf children and/or whether local authorities are getting better at identifying those that live in their area.

2. There are fewer Teachers of the Deaf

In 2017, we saw a 2% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England. Since 2011, we’ve seen a whopping 14% decline. These figures don’t take into account the number of trainee Teachers of the Deaf or Teachers of the Deaf in special schools – but it’s still clear there has been a significant long-term decline. Despite this, government action to address this has not been forthcoming.

3. There’s a looming retirement crunch

Over half of all visiting Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50, meaning they’re likely to retire in the next ten to fifteen years. Combined with the long-term decline in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, this could have a disastrous effect on deaf children, unless urgent action is taken by the Government.

4. Deaf children continue to be a diverse bunch

We know, for example, that 7% of deaf children have at least one cochlear implant, 14% use English as an additional spoken language at home while 22% have an additional special educational need. There can be a huge variety of need within deaf children which has important implications for Teacher of the Deaf training.

5. We still have an incomplete picture on post-16

It’s clear that local authorities continue to struggle in identifying deaf young people post-16, despite the introduction of a new 0 to 25 special educational needs framework in 2014 in England. For example, local authorities told us that 1,356 deaf young people left school in 2016. This is far less than we’d expect, based on what we know about the number of secondary aged pupils.

6. We know a bit more about the use of sign language in education

We already knew, from previous CRIDE surveys, that around 10% of all deaf children used sign language in education in some form. For the first time, instead of asking about all children, CRIDE asked about those who are severely or profoundly deaf. This revealed that, of this group, 29% use sign language in education, of which 8% use British Sign Language. It’s important to note that this doesn’t tell us about how much sign language is being used outside of school.

7. Government statistics on deaf children are still flawed

We know from CRIDE that there are over 45,000 deaf children across England. However, if we were to look at government figures, we’d be missing a large chunk of this group, around 42% of all deaf children. We’re calling on the Government to get better at collecting data on all deaf children.

There are still more stats yet to come – expect reports on deaf children in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the next month.

Getting it right from the start


Today, we’re launching a new campaign in England, called Right from the Start.

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

The campaign is celebrating 10 years of newborn hearing screening and how this simple and painless test has literally transformed the lives of thousands of deaf babies.

But whilst screening has made a big difference, there is still much that needs to be done. Once diagnosed as deaf, children and their families need high quality support to ensure they can develop the language and communication skills that are the foundations for success in later life.

Unfortunately, it’s clear that this support is not being provided consistently across the country. We know there’s a massive attainment gap in the early years foundation stage, where children are assessed among a range of early learning goals. We also regularly hear from parents that vital support, such as audiologists, Teachers of the Deaf, support with communication and so on is not being provided when it can have the most impact.

We’re calling on the Government, local authorities and health bodies to work together and make a commitment to ensure high quality support is in place as soon as a child is diagnosed as deaf. Our campaign report explains how the benefits of hearing screening at birth are being lost and what action is needed to ensure deaf children get the right support, right from the start.

Join us in getting it right from the start. We’re asking our campaigners to email our report to their MP and to ask them to take action.

There’s lot of other ways you can support the campaign. Find out more at

Closing the gap in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Last year NDCS published the Close the Gap report which highlighted the unacceptable education attainment gap which exists for deaf young people in Scotland. Data published in 2014 showed that almost 10% of deaf school leavers had no qualifications compared with just 1% of pupils with no Additional Support Needs. With the right support deaf young people can achieve just as much as their hearing peers. There is no reason why such a shocking statistic should be the reality facing as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland today.

A year on from our report’s publication the Scottish Parliament announced an Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment. This marks real progress and commitment from Scottish Parliament and Government towards closing the education gap for every child.

The Inquiry was solutions-focused and asked: what action can be taken to close the education attainment gap for sensory impaired pupils? Here are our views on what were the most important recommendations highlighted by the Inquiry:

1. Address the challenges affecting the specialist workforce for deaf learners including the consistency of qualifications Teachers of the Deaf have and their ageing profile.
2. Improve early intervention and support in the early years and establish Scottish Government early years standards that can inform care pathways and provision following newborn hearing screening diagnosis.
3. Improve data about deaf children so that local authorities can plan the services they need more effectively.
4. Ensure school buildings are meeting high quality acoustics standards – benefitting all learners, not just those are deaf.
5. Explore how we can use new technology to better support deaf learners, and in some cases centralise learning to offer deaf young people more opportunities and higher quality supports.
6. Support the confidence and resilience of deaf young people to help them prepare to succeed in whatever they do when they leave school.

The Education and Culture Committee are due to publish their Inquiry report in September, and NDCS will be responding to its recommendations then. Watch this space.

For more info contact:

5 things we’ve recently learnt about deaf children and Teachers of the Deaf in the UK from the CRIDE report

KMcQuaid photo

Kelsey McQuaid, Projects Officer

Every year the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), survey local authorities to find out about education provision for deaf children across the UK. CRIDE was developed in 2010 in conjunction with NDCS, National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP), British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD), academic institutions, special schools and Heads of Services.

Here are five things we’ve learnt from the most recent report:

  1. There are at least 48,125 deaf children in the UK. This is an increase of 16% since 2011 and 7% since 2013. There could be a number of reasons for this increase, such as changes in demography, an increase in the number of deaf children or perhaps services have become better at recording information about deaf children.
  2. The number of Teachers of the Deaf has decreased from 1,488 in 2013 to 1,433 in 2014, a 3% decline. In England, the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf has fallen below 1,000 for the first time. CRIDE is especially concerned that the number of Teachers of the Deaf is decreasing given that there is also a suggested increase in the number of deaf children.
  3. Only 9% of Teachers of the Deaf had a level 3 qualification in British Sign Language (BSL), which is usually required as the minimum for anyone working directly with deaf children who communicate in BSL.
  4. 5% of Teachers of the Deaf in resource provisions are not qualified as Teachers of the Deaf nor are in training to become one. In England, this would be regarded as unlawful – the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice states that teachers of classes of deaf children should be qualified Teachers of the Deaf.
  5. Many Teachers of the Deaf may be retiring in coming years. We found that over 530 Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to15 years, amounting to 51% of qualified Teachers of the Deaf. CRIDE is concerned that there are not enough new Teachers of the Deaf to replace those about to retire.

NDCS will continue to use the data collected from CRIDE to provide an evidence base for our campaigns and to lobby politicians for change so that our vision of a world without barriers for every deaf child can be realised.

For more information about the CRIDE survey and the results, go to



Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns


In December 2014 Ofsted published its inspection report into the quality of education provision for deaf secondary aged pupils at Knightsfield School in Hertfordshire. The school inspectors graded the school as outstanding.

Almost three quarters of the students at the school have additional needs such as specific communication and language difficulties, dyslexia, visual impairment, specific learning difficulties and medical needs. Students’ attainment when they start at the school is low compared with that expected for their age.

Gaining an outstanding judgement is a remarkable achievement and a credit to the school’s pupils, staff and governing body.

The inspectors identified many positive aspects. Here are seven highlights in their report that caught my eye. They constitute some of the essential ingredients that have to be put in place if deaf children are going to achieve their full potential throughout the UK.

1. Achievement of students: Students’ achievement is outstanding. Every student leaves Year 11 with at least five GCSEs, including English and mathematics, some at the highest levels. The majority of students make better progress in English and mathematics than is typical for similar-aged students nationally. This means they catch-up or are catching-up rapidly with all students in mainstream schools by the time they leave, despite their low starting points. Students say they have to work very hard but are proud of the progress they have made since leaving their previous schools

2. Leadership: The school’s leaders have high expectations, monitor the school’s work well and constantly challenge teachers to raise the achievement of students and strive for continuous improvement. Governors are well informed enabling to challenge leaders and to support developments very effectively.

3. The quality of school staff: Staff have an excellent understanding of how best to promote the learning of deaf students and use this knowledge to cater extremely well for their needs. The teachers have an excellent oversight of students’ progress and provide them with good written and spoken feedback to help them to understand what they are good at and how to improve. They routinely identify the things that slow down students’ learning and seek the best kind of support for individual needs and abilities often in partnership speech and language therapists and audiologists and parents. Teaching assistants support students very well because they are trained well

4. A focus on language and communication skills: Teachers ensure students to make remarkable gains in their communication and language skills. Students make huge strides in developing their self-confidence and in their ability to communicate freely with others. This enables them to learn very effectively in class.

5. Links with other schools: The school has developed excellent links with a local school and a college enable its students to learn alongside hearing children in mainstream settings with excellent support from Knightsfield staff. This enables the students to benefit from their specialist subject teaching and facilities in the neighbouring school and college.

6. Understanding and meeting social and emotional needs of deaf students: The social and emotional needs of the pupils are met exceptionally well and as a result behaviour is outstanding with students reporting very little bullying. The school thoroughly investigates challenging behaviour of some students, due to their special educational needs. The behaviour is sensibly addressed and very well managed by staff who enable these students to learn to deal with strong feelings in a mature way.

7. Partnership with parents: There are very good partnerships with parents and carers, who are overwhelmingly positive about the school.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has maintained for many years that deafness in itself is not a learning difficultly. With the right support deaf children’s rate of education progress and levels of attainment should match that of hearing children. We are therefore grateful for education services such as Knightsfield school who are working so hard to prove this very point.



Update! Scottish Parliament debate

Lois Drake

Louis Drake- Policy & Campaigns Assistant


Last week a debate took place in the Scottish Parliament on Educational Disadvantage and Deaf Children in Scotland, following the submission of a motion by Kenneth Gibson MSP. The motion was supported by 33 MSPs and was debated on 11 December 2014 with 16 MSPs attending.

You can watch the full debate here and read the official report here.

Key themes:

• MSPs congratulated the National Deaf Children’s Society on the work we do to support deaf children and their families and our campaigns to break down barriers experienced by this group.

• It was highlighted that all levels of hearing loss can affect educational attainment (Kenneth Gibson MSP & Liam McArthur), with those having mild hearing impairments consistently scoring under average too.

• The stigma around how we think about young deaf people was discussed with it being reiterated by a number of MSPs that deafness is not a learning disability and that “we have to get away from the perception that deaf children are different. They are not.” (Dennis Robertson MSP).

• Attention was drawn to the lack of qualified teachers of the deaf (ToDs) with it being highlighted that 1/3 of ToDs are underqualified. It was proposed by one MSP that there should be laws in place regarding the minimum level of qualifications of ToDs, with a suggested minimum Level 3 BSL qualification as there is concern the current Level 2 requirement might not be sufficiently advanced. The 6% decrease in numbers of ToDs over the last 3 years was highlighted and ½ of the workforce being due to retire in the next 10 – 15 years described at a potential ‘recruitment nightmare’ (Jayne Baxter MSP). The Minister was also asked to address the problem in regulation and monitoring of ToDs.

• Jenny Marra MSP probed the Minister on this point and asked whether he will put targets in place in order to move steadily towards more teachers being appropriately qualified.

• Lack of national data on numbers of deaf children in Scotland was addressed and that there needs to be accurate and relevant data in place in order to develop good policy (Kenneth Gibson MSP).

• Lack of statutory acoustics guidance was addressed with there being no standards in Scotland and a need to improve school acoustics (Liam McArthur MSP).

• The importance of early years and families was highlighted with a need to look beyond school and think about support families need to provide rich supportive home environments (Dennis Robertson MSP).

• In his closing speech the Minister accepted that an attainment gap exists for young deaf learners which needs to be closed by working together to develop an education system that unlocks the potential of all young people, including those with a hearing impairment. He also accepted that families need the skills to promote the development of language in the early years with the Curriculum for Excellence supporting personalisation. It was accepted that work needs to be done to improve the qualifications of teachers working with deaf children. The debate concluded with the Minister announcing the Scottish Government will be supporting the passage and principles of the BSL Bill.

NDCS view on the debate:

This was a successful debate which highlighted some of the most important issues affecting the education of deaf children. We were really pleased to have MSPs raise crucial issues around early years support, qualifications of teachers, acoustics regulations, as well as the need to promote better deaf awareness and inclusion generally in our schools and communities.

It is positive that the Minister has reiterated that he accepts an attainment gap exists for deaf learners and reaffirmed his commitment to working to close this. We are meeting with the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages in January and will pick up on these points. Our recommendation remains that Education Scotland carries out an Aspect Review into education provision for deaf learners. We are also pleased to see the Education Committee’s interest in deaf education through both the BSL Bill and its work programme around the attainment gap – we are keen to support this work in any way we can.

For further information contact:
0141 354 7852