The "absolute crisis" facing the education of deaf children has been laid bare in new research that shows they are lagging behind their peers – while their teachers are being “crushed by the demands of the role”.
The research, published today, reveals that four in five teachers of deaf children work extra hours to cope with rising workloads, while 63 per cent work the equivalent of an extra day a week just to keep up.
Campaigners say the number of specialist teachers has fallen by 15 per cent in the past seven years, and that more than half of current teachers are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.
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They are calling on the government to introduce a £3.3 million bursary fund to help to train around 400 new teachers over the next three years.
Lack of specialist teachers for deaf pupils
Steph Halder, president of the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD), said: “The introduction of a training bursary would help to provide more teachers to the profession, relieve some of the pressure and ultimately support deaf children to achieve their potential.
“This survey highlights the increasing pressure dedicated teachers of the deaf find themselves under as they work tirelessly to meet the needs of deaf children and balance the demands of their role.”
The research, which featured more than 600 teachers with deaf specialism, was carried out by BATOD and the National Deaf Children’s Society. It also shows that:
- Deaf pupils fall behind their classmates at key stages 1 and 2, with the gap growing to an entire grade by GCSE, despite deafness not being a learning disability;
- Six in 10 teachers said there was less support available for deaf children than in 2014, while 43 per cent felt deaf pupils were now performing worse;
- 69 per cent said deaf education in their area didn’t receive adequate funding.
James Bowen, of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said that, without specialist teachers, deaf children would be left to "fend for themselves."
He said: “All the government’s good intentions and warm words on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will count for little if there are not the professionals in place to deliver the support for pupils when they need it.”
Susan Daniels, of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said of the 15 per cent drop in teachers: “The results of this survey show a system in absolute crisis. Specialist teachers do an incredible job in exceptionally difficult circumstances and play a vital role in the lives of deaf children. However, they are being crushed by the demands of a role which has become simply unsustainable."
Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said that the councils knew that deafness could make life "incredibly difficult for some children who experience it" and were doing all they could to help them get the education they deserve.
“However, councils are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand, pushing support for children with SEND to a tipping point."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including those who are deaf, is the same for any other child – to achieve well in education, and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
“It is up to local authorities to work with the schools in their area to identify the nature of specialist support services they commission, according to the needs of schools in their area.”