General election 2017- Scotland

Lois-Drake-2-cropped

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister, Theresa May announced a snap election would take place on 8 June 2017. What will your new MPs in Scotland do to ensure deaf children and young people and their families in your area get the support they need?

There has been positive progress lately in Scotland for deaf young people and their families. The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 (BSL Act) was passed which marked an historic moment for deaf people across the country.

The implementation of the new laws is now underway with the draft BSL National Plan open for consultation. However work must continue by closing any existing gaps in support that exist for all deaf children and young people and their families.

Some key facts prospective MPs in Scotland should be aware of:-

  • We estimate there are as many as 3850 deaf children in Scotland today and we believe that, with the right support, they can do anything other children can do;
  • Deafness is not a learning disability, but deaf learners consistently do worse than their hearing peers at school;
  • Teachers of the Deaf are vital for many deaf children but there is regional variation in staffing levels and services are being squeezed with half are due to retire within the next 10 to 15 years;
  • The latest Scottish Government data shows that last year 11.8% of deaf learners left school with no qualifications (compared with 2.6% of all pupils) and 38.7% obtained Highers or Advanced Highers (compared with 59.3% of all pupils). This gap in achievement at school goes on to affect deaf young people’s life chances, with 24.7% going onto university compared with 41.3% of those with no additional support needs;
  • The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and a strong focus on educational attainment all have the potential to drive positive outcomes for deaf children and their families;
  • While this progress should be celebrated, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every deaf child in Scotland gets the support they need from birth – with standards of support variable across Scotland, we need MPs who will champion deaf children in their area!
  • The early years are a critical time for deaf children to develop the language and communication skills they need for life, as outlined in our recent report Getting It Right From the Start;

Will your MP be an advocate for deaf children in your area?

Tell them to email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk to request a briefing.

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.

Don’t let deafness be overshadowed

Jen-Jones

Jen Jones, Information Editor CYPF – Information, Membership and Local Groups National Deaf Children’s Society

Up to 40% of deaf children have additional needs. For deaf children with the most complex needs, deafness can be overshadowed by their other difficulties.

Our guide, Supporting the Achievement of hearing impaired children in special schools, is a brilliant resource for staff working with deaf children in special schools. But as we all know, teachers and other school support staff are busy people who might not have the time to read 60 plus pages of (excellent) advice.

So, we decided to create a video to share the top five tips we wanted people to take away from the guide:

1: How to spot a child with hearing loss

2: Know how to manage a deaf child’s hearing technology

3: Create a good listening environment

4: Make sure communication works

5: Promote listening skills

We filmed at Foreland Fields School in Broadstairs on a very cold day in January 2017. Staff and pupils at the school made us very welcome, especially the infant class who loved our cameraman’s beard!

We filmed in three different classrooms (the Total Communication class was one of the most beautifully decorated classrooms I’ve ever seen – with artwork that moved whenever the door opened or closed). We also managed to get some great outside shots – and the pupils didn’t complain once about the freezing conditions. And I mean freezing – the camera batteries kept running down because it was so cold.

You can watch our video on our YouTube channel. Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.

The video was produced with support from the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, and funded as a project by the Department for Education.

The inspection you definitely want to have…

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Why Ofsted & CQC should inspect the uninspected for deaf children

I will never forget the fear of a house inspection at university or the time that my local hospital’s underperformance became the talk of the town. Simply put, scrutinising the quality and standards of the services we use has become a key part of our lives.

InspectTheUninspectedDespite this, deaf children, teenagers and their parents have been missing out for a long time. Ofsted & CQC’s local area consultation into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has given us a rare opportunity to have services for deaf children and young people monitored for the first time. We are asking you to take action and respond to the consultation to make sure this happens.

Ofsted and CQC are currently finding out what parents and young people think about new proposals to inspect SEND services. Inspectors will look into a ‘wide range of groups of children and young people’ with a range of disabilities and needs. Here are our concerns with the proposals:

  • The quality of support provided by Teachers of the Deaf will not be inspected
  • Inspectors will look at SEND overall and not the specific needs of each group
  • Inspections will not be graded, i.e. outstanding or good
  • We don’t yet know what will happen if a service is failing
  • With only 2 days’ notice, it will be difficult for working parents and young people in education to feed into the review
  • We want to ensure that children, young people and parents interviewed have experience of deafness.

When choosing schools and local services, we believe that parents and deaf young people should be able to make an informed choice. Having access to information about the quality of your local services is a crucial part of breaking down barriers facing deaf young people in education, health and wider society.

It’s time to tell Ofsted and CQC that their plans require improvement, we must demand outstanding services for our deaf children and young people.

Three ways to take action

  1. Join our Inspect the Uninspected campaign to call on Ofsted and the CQC to rethink their approach to SEND inspections.
  2. Get involved and respond to the consultation.
  3. Spread the message on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #inspecttheuninspected.

More information

The consultation will run until 4 January and you can find out more information about how to feed into it on our website.

 

 

Deaf children are being failed by the education system

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive

Imagine a world where nearly two thirds of children were leaving school without getting good GCSEs. Parents would rightly be furious that their child hadn’t got the right support at school. There would be outrage and a clamour for urgent action.

But when it comes to deaf children, this is the reality that we face. The latest figures from the government, published today show that just 36% of deaf children achieved the government’s benchmark for GCSE success, compared to 65% of their hearing friends.

This is happening despite the fact that deafness is not in itself a learning disability. At the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), we strongly believe that, providing that the right support is provided from the start, deaf children can achieve just as well as anyone else.

But in too many areas that support is being denied to deaf children. We regularly hear from families who are concerned and anxious for their child’s future. For example, a mother of 16-year-old Jodie told us:

“Jodie has never received any kind of formal support with her education. Time and again I’ve raised concerns and begged for help, knowing how badly she was struggling and failing to keep up with her classmates and that when crunch time came she’d be falling off the edge of a cliff.

“If Jodie had received the extra help that I was fighting for, who knows what she could have achieved and where life could have taken her.”

That so many deaf children are being set up to fail is a tragedy. But worse still, is the very real possibility that in coming years, the situation will get worse, not better. Recent government initiatives to support children with special educational needs and disabilities will come to nothing if we don’t recognise the realities on the ground.

For example, a recent report issued by NDCS on behalf of the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (Cride) raises serious concerns that deaf children will have less access to specialist support in future years. It found that the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf – who provide expert support to deaf children – is actually going down, falling below 1,000 for the first time last year. A retirement crisis is also looming – over half of all Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

All of this is happening at a time when local authorities are cutting back on the support that deaf children need, leaving families desperate for support and worried for their child’s future.

It’s heart-breaking to see deaf children like Jodie being failed because they haven’t received the right support. But unless we see urgent action from the Government to address these failing local authorities, we are likely to hear more stories of heartbreak from parents of deaf children.

This is not the future that any parent wants for their child.

This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.