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Hear my plea

Deaf children can get a raw deal in schools, but there is new guidance available that can make all the difference. Stephen Manning reports

There are 35,000 deaf or hearing impaired children in the UK, with 80 per cent of them attending mainstream schools. But according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, only a third of deaf children (32.9 per cent) get five or more A* to C GCSEs, compared with 57.1 per cent of all hearing children. With this in mind, Monday sees the launch of two new resource packs created by the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS), to help schools become more aware of the needs of hearing impaired pupils.

One pack is for teacher training teachers, with tips on how the learning environment can be adjusted to benefit hard of hearing pupils, how to reinforce lessons through visual displays, even where best to stand in the classroom when you are addressing the whole class. (Standing in one spot, for example, is much better than continually moving around).

The other pack features curriculum activities, mainly for key stages 1 and 2 and linked to the national curriculum. These combine information on hearing impairment with practical strategies to use in the class and playground.

The pack explains how our ears work, and contains useful materials aimed at hearing children. They can learn how to communicate with deaf friends, through basic sign language or activities based around non-verbal gestures using the face, eyes and body. There is also material about profoundly or partially deaf people, the former including Evelyn Glennie, the percussionist, the latter including Bill Clinton, the former US president.

"Children with impaired hearing are still the same as all the other children. Effective communication is essential," says Lorna Simpson, the NDCS's education development manager, who has written some of the materials. "It is perhaps most difficult during social times, either in the playground or in informal discussions in the classroom."

Lorna was herself a teacher, looking after 32 pupils in a hearing impaired provision attached to a mainstream school. "In the playground teachers should think about how deaf children learn normal playground games," she says. "They don't pick them up in the same way. It's good to take time out in PE or PSHE lessons to show them these games, and help them catch up."

Learn to Sign

The packs are A4 ringbinders and will be distributed to local authoritie

s, but schools can download them free from the website (www.ndcs.org.uk), with a limited number of hard copies also available. Phone the NDCS Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text) or email helpline@ndcs.org.uk

Learn To Sign week is on October 1-6

www.learntosign.org.uk

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