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New research shows specialist support for 45,000 deaf children in crisis

  • Councils have slashed numbers of specialist Teachers of the Deaf by 14% in the last 7 years, despite reporting a 31% increase in the number of deaf children. 
  • 57% of existing specialist staff are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.
  • 15% of councils have 1 specialist teacher for every 100 students.
  • Government has no plan in place to recruit new specialist support, with a leading children’s charity commenting: “The evidence couldn’t be clearer. A whole generation of deaf children will have their futures decimated if the Government doesn’t act before it’s too late.”

Research published today by the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (CRIDE) and supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows the system for supporting England’s 45,000 deaf children is in complete disarray.

The research shows that in the last 7 years, despite a 31% increase in the number of deaf children that councils have a legal duty to assess and provide support for, the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf has been cut by 14%.

As well as the current pressure on services from staffing cuts and the number of deaf children increasing, figures show that 1/3 of councils have also found it difficult to recruit new specialist teaching staff. This is happening at the same time as nearly 60% of existing specialist staff are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Susan Daniels, the Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society today warned “The evidence couldn’t be clearer. From every angle and at every turn, a whole generation of deaf children will have their futures decimated if the Government doesn’t act before it’s too late.

“We already have too few specialist Teachers of the Deaf across England, but with 60% due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, the Government’s current complacency is a complete dereliction of duty.

“I’m profoundly deaf, and know all too well the challenges of growing up without support. It means struggling to communicate, falling behind at school, failing to achieve your potential. Despite deafness not being a learning disability, deaf children fall a whole grade behind their hearing friends at school. This is only going to get worse if the Government doesn’t intervene.”

The report lays bare the reality on the ground of year on year cuts to specialist support. Over a quarter of services now have one specialist teacher for every 80 students, and in 15% of services, there is one teacher for over 100 students. Susan Daniels added: “This is a ridiculous situation. One teacher cannot possibly support 100 children – at the end of the day, it is deaf children and their families who will suffer the most from this. This cannot continue.”

Emma Fraser has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf for the last 9 years. She told us, “There is absolutely no reason why deaf children can’t achieve as well as any other child, if they are given the right support. From training up classroom teachers to improve how they communicate with deaf children, to doing intensive 1 to 1 tuition, to organising specialist technology, Teachers of the Deaf are the key to unlocking a deaf child’s future.

“While every local authority is different, such a high proportion relying on one teacher to support up to 100 students is really worrying. The sheer volume of students being supported means that corners will be cut. There will be less time in the classroom, less time supporting families as a whole, and less opportunities to work with health professionals to give a deaf child the proper support they need.”

Caroline Blenkhorn, whose 4 year old daughter is deaf added: “I’ve seen first-hand what cuts to Teachers of the Deaf looks like. Our early years Teacher of the Deaf was incredibly supportive but she was stretched to the limit with the time she could give. As cuts came into effect, coupled with more babies and children being identified with hearing loss, the support she could give to us became less.

“Since moving up to primary school we have had very little support. Her Teacher of the Deaf left, and the local authority has had no communication with us to say what is happening. This is the prime time for my daughters learning, and I feel like we are being completely failed by the system.”

The National Deaf Children’s Society is calling on the Government to make two changes in light of this report. Firstly, to set up a centralised bursary to fund trainee Teachers of the Deaf, with a recruitment drive to get more of them into the classroom.

In addition, the charity is calling on the Department for Education to properly fund the education of deaf children. Susan Daniels said: “The Department for Education needs to get a grip on the mounting funding crisis that is putting so many deaf children’s futures at risk. The Government has a responsibility to ensure deaf children get the support they need, and at the moment they are utterly failing to live up to this.”

Daniels concluded: “Without action, we face one of the biggest crises for deaf children I have seen in my lifetime.”

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