Educational support for England’s 45,000 deaf children is “in complete disarray” with a dwindling number of specialist teachers struggling to meet growing demand, according to research.
A report by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education says the number of teachers of the deaf has been cut by 14% in the past seven years, at the same time as a 31% increase in the number of children requiring support.
In some areas the situation is so critical there is just one specialist teacher for every 100 students. Without intervention, researchers say the crisis is likely to worsen, with many existing staff close to retirement.
Susan Daniels, the chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said despite deafness not being a learning disability, deaf children already fell a whole grade behind their hearing friends at school. Almost 80% of deaf children attend mainstream schools with no specialist provision.
Daniels warned that underachievement among deaf children was likely to grow. “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.
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you Read more “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.”
The report, which surveyed almost every authority in England, found more than a quarter of services have one specialist teacher for every 80 students, and in 15% of services there was one teacher for more than 100 students. Figures also show that a third of councils seeking new specialist staff have found it difficult to recruit.
Caroline Blenkhorn, whose four-year-old daughter is deaf, has seen at first-hand the impact of recent cuts. “Our early years teacher of the deaf was incredibly supportive but she was stretched to the limit with the time she could give.
“Since moving up to primary school we have had very little support. Her teacher left, and the local authority has had no communication with us to say what is happening.
“This is the prime time for my daughter’s learning, and I feel like we are being completely failed by the system.”
The National Deaf Children’s Society is calling on ministers to provide additional funds for the education of deaf children. It also wants the government to launch a recruitment drive and a centralised bursary to fund trainee specialist teachers of the deaf.
Responding to the report, Robert Goodwill, minister of state for children and families, said councils had been given £223m extra funding to pay for the biggest reforms to special needs education in a generation, with new education, health and care plans tailored to the needs of every child.
“Most children who are deaf are able to attend their local schools while receiving expert advice, and for those with more complex needs there are specialist deaf schools. This has shown results, with the proportion of children with hearing impairment achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs, including in English and maths, at a record high.”