What parents and young people had to say on Teachers of the Deaf

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

The Government in England have recently been consulting about what Teachers of the Deaf need to know and do to be able to work with deaf children and their families.

We asked our members for their views and some of the points that came back strongly were:

•  Lots of families value Teachers of the Deaf and their expertise
•  Some families said they wanted Teachers of the Deaf to be more able to communicate in sign language
•  Some families queried why Teachers of the Deaf didn’t support deaf young people in college, university or in apprenticeships and wanted Teachers of the Deaf to do more to support deaf young people post 16
•  Young people told us it was important that Teachers of the Deaf really took the time to get to know the individual they were supporting
•  Lots of young people told us that they wanted Teachers of the Deaf to do more to promote deaf awareness, using resources like Look, Smile, Chat

We have factored all of these points into our response. We also made a few other points including:

•  We’d like to see more emphasis on the role of Teachers of the Deaf working with the family to support deaf children, particularly in the early years
•  There needs to be greater quality control over course providers to make sure they’re producing consistently good Teachers of the Deaf
•  There are lots of concerns that large numbers of Teachers of the Deaf will be retiring within the next ten years. We want to see better co-ordination and workforce planning to make sure there is a steady supply of Teachers of the Deaf coming through the system to replace those retiring
•  1 month to consult on the role of Teachers of the Deaf is nowhere near enough. The Government should carry out a longer more fundamental review of Teachers of the Deaf and consider, for example, whether new specialisms should be introduced

You can read our response here.

We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to give us their views. We’ll be working hard to make sure that the Government listens to what we’ve had to say.

How can we get better Teachers of the Deaf?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Yesterday we blogged about a current consultation on Teachers of the Deaf and what they need to know and do. We asked for views on what you liked about the support that Teachers of the Deaf currently provide to your deaf child or to deaf children in general.

In this blog, we’ve got a different question that we’d like to get your views on:

Are there any areas in which Teachers of the Deaf could be better?

You may want to think about your own family’s specific needs and the extent to which your Teacher of the Deaf is meeting them. Are there any areas where you’d like your Teacher of the Deaf to do more to meet the needs of you and your deaf child? Are there any gaps in knowledge or skills that you’ve come across?

To get your brain juices flowing, the current consultation proposed that the qualification to become a Teacher of the Deaf covers the following eight areas:

1) Professional qualities and attributes of Teachers of the Deaf
2) Knowledge of current laws in education
3) Knowledge of audiology
4) Skills in promoting communication, language and interaction in deaf children
5) Teaching and learning skills
6) Supporting social and emotional development and well-being
7) Supporting transitions in deaf children and young people
8) Partnership working

As before, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or emailing us at campaigns@ndcs.org.uk. We’ll use your responses to inform our response.

You can also respond direct – our previous blog has details of how. The deadline for responses is the 10th December.

Have your say: what skills should a Teacher of the Deaf have?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Did you know that teachers have to undergo an extra two years of training in order to become a Teacher of the Deaf? This is so they can pick up the specialist expert knowledge needed in order to make sure that deaf children can achieve their potential.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership are currently seeking views on what should be part of this “mandatory qualification”. At NDCS, we’re extremely unhappy about the fact that the College have left just one month to consult on this.

Whilst we’ll be complaining about this, we still want to make sure that parents of deaf children get to have their say on what Teachers of the Deaf need to do and know. So, this week, in this blog, we’re encouraging families to let us know what they think so that we can include them in our response.

The first question we’d like to get views on is:

What do you like about the support that Teachers of the Deaf currently provide to your deaf child or to deaf children in general?

Is there anything that they do or know that you particularly value? What have they done that’s made a big difference to your child?

Please let us know what you think – leave us a comment below or email us at campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

We’ll be doing another blog later this week with a second question, so please watch out for those.

If you’d like more information about the consultation, you can:

Read the consultation document
Find out what skills and competencies Teachers of the Deaf are currently expected to have

And if you’d like to respond to the College directly, you can:

Download a response form

Mother successfully challenges daughter’s educational support cuts

Tasneem is the mother of Aisha who is currently in 6th year of a mainstream high school in Scotland. Tasneem recently overturned the decision to have her daughter’s teacher of the deaf (ToD) hours of support cut and shares her experience to inspire other parents.

I was so happy when Aisha obtained three A’s and a B in her 5th year exams and was in no doubt that the 5 hours a week support she received from her ToD contributed to her success. So you can imagine my shock when Aisha told me she had not seen her ToD when she began 6th year. A phone call from the school then confirmed that Aisha would now be receiving support once a fortnight.

“How am I going to cope?” pic Aisha

I was shocked by this and couldn’t understand how Aisha could go from requiring 5 hours of support a week to only once a fortnight. Aisha was used to the support she was receiving so this was a big difference for her. Her initial reaction was to panic. She asked me questions like, “how am I going to cope?”, “who will explain things to me?” She was also upset because she was attached to her ToD, who also supports her wee sister, so she saw her as a friend.

“I began feeling nervous about challenging the decision…”

I am not a confrontational person but I realised I had to do something for my daughter’s sake. I immediately attempted to set up a meeting with the school and the head of support services, which proved far more difficult than I had imagined. Despite speaking to the ToD on the phone, I had to arrange the meeting with the head through the school. This delayed progress and meant I was continually chasing up the school. I found this lack of communication between the school and the support services was a real barrier for me. Once the school had eventually set up the meeting, I began feeling nervous about challenging the decision. I didn’t know what information I would need which lead to me question whether I was doing the right thing. Maybe I was overreacting? What if the support services were right, surely they should know what is best for Aisha? But I knew that my daughter would not be getting the support she needed so I started asking myself, what are my rights and what should I expect from the school and support services?

“I knew I had someone on my side”

Thankfully the National Deaf Children’s Society really helped me with this, explaining my rights under various laws including the Additional Support for Learning Act and Equalities Act. They also provided me with a comprehensive list of what support Aisha should receive and accompanied me to the meeting, so I knew I had someone on my side.

At the meeting the ToD explained that once a fortnight support had been decided upon in line with the Matrix guidelines they used, and that they are now regarded as a consultancy agency, not peripatetic. With the help of the National Deaf Children’s Society I argued that this was unfair as a mainstream teacher cannot provide one-to-one service in a class of 30. It also puts pressure on the deaf child to seek out class teachers during break/lunch time to ask questions which is totally inconvenient. This also requires confidence from the child to go out their way to ask these questions. The ToD asked me what level of support I would be happy with and I suggested 3 hours a week. I argued that Aisha had done so well in her exams due to the support she was receiving. I stuck to my guns and after a lot of passing the buck between the support services and the school, I was eventually successful in overturning the decision.

“I would also urge parents to take advantage of the support offered by the National Deaf Children’s Society…”

Given my experience I would urge parents to challenge decisions that affect their deaf children. Some parents may not be aware of exactly how much support their child is getting in school and some may not be aware of cuts in this support. I personally know parents who have not been told about cuts. My advice for parents is to find out who their child’s ToD is and what their role is. I was even unclear on this. I would also urge parents to take advantage of the support offered by the National Deaf Children’s Society and within their child’s school. It made a big difference to have someone from the National Deaf Children’s Society and pastoral care within the school actually attend the meetings with me. Especially because you know you are being supported by someone who knows what your child is entitled to. I think parents need to be made more aware that the National Deaf Children’s Society can accompany them to meetings of this nature and can provide information and advice on their rights.

Click here to find out more about children’s educational rights in Scotland.

How well are deaf children doing in their early years (0-5 years) in England?

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

In England early years providers must complete an early years foundation stage profile for each child in the final term of the year in which they turn 5. For most children this is the reception year in primary school. The profile provides an assessment of a child’s attainment against 17 early learning goals together with a short description of the child’s learning characteristics.

The results from this assessment should be used to identify the child’s needs and inform what support and teaching approaches they need when they start in Year 1.

This blog looks at how the attainment of deaf children compare with all children. But before jumping into the statistics it is important to note that children are very dependent on their hearing to learn. Having a hearing loss therefore presents significant challenges to the child and those adults who support them.

However, early identification of a hearing loss at birth, good levels of support from parents, health, education and social care services and effective use of hearing technology can reduce the disadvantages deaf children face. Indeed in recent years we have seen a significant improvement in the attainment of deaf children in the early years.

What the result of the profile tell us

 The early learning goals cover areas such as communication and language, personal social and emotional development, literacy and numeracy. A child’s attainment is assessed as meeting the expected goal, exceeding the goal or emerging if the expected level is not reached. The table below shows the percentage of deaf children reaching the expected level for all 17 goals compared with all children in 2013.

As expected the biggest gap in attainment between the two groups is in communication and language and in areas most closely connected with language such as reading and writing.

Area of Learning Early learning goal Percentage reaching the expected standard in the specific ELG
Deaf children All children
Communication and Language Listening and attention 46% 80%
Understanding 43% 81%
Speaking 37% 78%
Physical Development Moving and handling 66% 87%
Health and self-care 63% 88%
Personal, Social and Emotional Development Self-confidence and self-awareness 62% 85%
Managing feelings and behaviour 58% 83%
Making relationships 60% 85%
Literacy Reading 37% 71%
Writing 30% 62%
Mathematics Numbers 43% 69%
Shape, space and measures 46% 75%
Understanding the world People and communities 51% 81%
The world 49% 81%
Technology 69% 88%
Expressive arts, designing and making Exploring and using media and materials 57% 83%
Being imaginative 55% 81%

(Source: From the Department of Education’s census which records information only on deaf children who receive additional specialist support where “hearing impairment” is the main type of special educational needs)

What should parents do if they are worried about their deaf child’s progress or attainment levels in the early years?

 It is important to remember that your child’s hearing loss could delay your child’s development in a number of key areas. While it is important to have high expectations it is important to recognise that your child may still be making good progress even if they are at the “emerging” level. Schools should be using the results from your child’s profile to identify where you child needs support to help them catch up with other children.  In some cases children may just fall short of reaching expected levels and will catch up with limited support. Others may require far greater levels of support to make good progress in particular areas. In many cases the focus will need to be on communication and language as this is the key to other aspects of learning and development.

Professionals who know your child such as school teachers and your child’s Teacher of the Deaf should be able to offer good advice. However, if parents remain worried and feel their child is not receiving the support to enable them to make good progress, the NDCS is able to offer support and advice. This can be obtained by contacting the NDCS helpline.

NDCS campaigns to ensure every deaf child is able to succeed, for more information and to get involved join our campaigns network.

Keep an eye out for my blog tomorrow which gives more information about the resources that can help you support your deaf child’s development and education in the early years.

11 things parents should ask for when their child starts school

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Assistant

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Assistant

The law requires that schools and local authorities ensure that deaf children are not placed at a substantial disadvantage in accessing teaching and learning.

They are required to use “best endeavours” to ensure your child makes good progress and does well.

Here are 11 top things parents should be asking from schools and/or local authorities. Choosing just 11 has been very difficult. All deaf children are different and what best fits one child will not fit another. With that health warning here are our top 11 asks:

1)   Having high expectations for your child: Education inspectors throughout the UK now require schools to have high expectations. Schools should be expecting deaf children to make at least the same rate of progress as other children and seek to close any attainment gaps with other children that may exist when your child starts school.

2)   Deaf awareness training for staff and other children: Young deaf people have told us lack of deafness awareness is one of their biggest concerns at school. School staff and other pupils in the class need to have an understanding of the impact of your child’s hearing loss, how to make your child feel included and crucially how to communicate. Teachers of the Deaf are well placed to provide training. deaf awareness pic

3)   Effective use of hearing technology: Your child cannot afford to miss what is being said in class. It is important that there is a member of staff who can check whether your child’s hearing aids and equipment are functioning properly and trouble shoot any problems. There is a lot of background noise in schools and radio aids can help a lot of deaf children hear what the teacher is saying

4)   Good listening conditions and lighting: It is important for schools to know that technology does not replace normal hearing and its effectiveness depends on the acoustic quality of classrooms. Schools can take steps to reduce background noise and reduce reverberation (echo effect) in classes. Advice can be found in our advice to schools. Good lighting is important for lip reading and for children who rely on signing.

5)   Knowing your child: It is important that your child’s teachers and teaching assistants have an understanding of your child’s deafness, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and how they communicate. Many parents have found it helpful to prepare a personal profile of their child to give to the school.

6)   Social and Emotional Support: Emily’s last blog described the important role school staff had in giving her the confidence to speak up for herself and make friends. Regular deaf awareness training can help and our guidance to schools sets out what they can do to support a deaf child’s social and emotion development (See page 32 of our advice to primary schools).

7)   Support from a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD): Many school staff have limited knowledge and experience of teaching deaf children. Specialist ToDs can give advice on understanding your child’s needs, how to ensure good progress is made and how your child is can be fully included in the life of the school.

8)   Inclusive teaching: Teachers will need to adapt the way they teach to ensure your child learns. This is required by law under the Equality Act 2010. Our advice to schools outlines possible teaching approaches (see page 12 of our advice to primary schools).NDCS. Deaf children at Hacton primary school in Hornchurch, Essex, in class with othed deaf children and also hearing children, being helped by signing assistant and teachers with sound field mic's and visula aids.

9)   Help from a teaching assistant (TA) or communication support worker (CSW): Depending on your child’s needs, they may be allocated a TA or CSW. TAs/CSWs play a crucial role in ensuring lessons are accessible to deaf children. They support learning and help with a child’s social and emotional development. For children who sign, having a CSW with a level 3 BSL qualification (equivalent to A level) is important.  It would be difficult for a CSW with a level 2 qualification to interpret accurately what a teacher is saying and it would be impossible to do this with Level 1 skills. The school should be acquainted with the National Sensory Impairment Partnership’s advice on effective working with TAs.

10)   A focus on language development: Language lies at the heart of learning. To learn you need to understand the language the teacher is using. To write you need language. It is critical that the school focuses on developing your child’s language to ensure they don’t fall behind. ToDs can help with this and many parents have found support from a speech and language therapist to be very helpful.

11)   Including you as a full partner in your child’s learning: You will have important information about your child that will be helpful to school staff. Schools need to advise you on how you can help with your child’s learning and inform you about progress and any difficulties. Many parents have found use of a home-school daily notebook helpful. A number of parents and schools have found “structured conversations” extremely successful.

These are our top suggestions. You may feel that we have missed important things out. Given a limit of 11 asks what would you delete and add in? Please let us know.

Isabel and Matthew’s Story: Right support, bright future

Isabel Matt and Brody

Isabel, Matthew and Brody (Photographer- Diana Martin)

Matthew and I are profoundly deaf and genetically on paper we were aware there was a 50/50 chance of having a hearing impaired child (Matthew comes from a family of five deaf generations, I have hearing parents, one hearing sister and one deaf sister). Throughout my pregnancy we were so sure our baby was hearing when I dropped a plate and he moved in my tummy! In June 2013, I gave birth to Brody at Whipps Cross Hospital, Waltham Forest in a water pool and the very next day he failed his first hearing test which is normal for most babies born in water.

Afterwards, we were told that there’s a special machine which bypasses the water in the ears.  An appointment will be made for Brody to have this in one week or so, but then it was done immediately 30 minutes after the first hearing test. She came back and put sticky electrodes on Brody’s face and head. He was furious! It was a 20 minutes test and we stopped after 5 minutes. We felt it was very intrusive. Brody failed his second test then the third test which was four hours long at Wood Street Health Centre with the audiologist who we couldn’t lip-read.

We started to lose patience but Brody slept peacefully through it all. We were told that Brody had a mild to moderate hearing loss. We were very confused and expected a very straightforward answer which was – profoundly deaf or severely deaf. We left quickly and looked up on the Internet and were surprised to see mild to moderate hearing loss does exist. We knew there was varying degrees of hearing loss but wasn’t aware that it was called “mild to moderate”.

Living in the Redbridge borough of East London, using Waltham Forest & Redbridge council services, we were given support straight away after Brody was diagnosed hard of hearing. Suddenly we had access to everything we did not know about before he was born: Coffee mornings at Early Years Centre EaST 17 in Walthamstow, Roding School in Roding Valley with Parent Workers, and other parents with deaf children.

Brody got his own Teacher of the Deaf with her monthly visits. She even helped out with his nursery by teaching the staff deaf awareness and answering all of our questions! He has been to speech therapist twice at Redbridge Children’s Speech & Language Therapy Service and an interpreter was provided both times. Audiology appointments were at Whipps Cross University Hospital Audiology Service Hearing Assessment Centre where he had his hearing aids fitted at 4 months old with cool red ear moulds! The tests showed he responded much better to sounds with his hearing aids than without. We felt really lucky with the rich resources out there available for our child.

Overall, I found the speech therapy appointments the hardest because of the language development and skills that are required at his age. Brody is very vocal but I can’t make out what vowel and sound he is making, but at home we make sure we teach him all sounds like music, animal noises and buy musical toys. Brody likes to create sounds by himself by banging the saucepans!

With our own mixed experiences growing up deaf, we want the best for Brody and we make sure we use our voices and BSL with him since he was a baby; he has turned out to be a very attentive happy little fella. Without all the support we are receiving for Brody, especially his Teacher of the Deaf (she’s a godsend!), we would definitely struggle with how to go forward with Brody’s deafness and for him to fit in with society, to make sure he is treated as an equal with his hearing peers and not to be isolated. We believe this won’t be the case because we are confident Brody’s interests are being cared for.

We feel the future is bright for Brody who is 13 months old as there are hearing members of his maternal family, whilst also having Deaf members of his family to guide him through his life. We feel reassured that the outcome of this environment means he will have the best of both worlds. Knowing NDCS is out there challenging cuts to deaf children’s services like Teacher of the Deaf support, to ensure families like ours get the best services they can is great. Please join us as members of the Campaigns Network today to ensure every deaf child receives the support they need.