'Heartbreaking' failure to support deprived deaf pupils

Deaf children from poorer backgrounds are falling behind their hearing peers by two grades due to a lack of support

Jasleen Mann

Disadvantaged deaf children can be two grades behind their hearing classmates at GCSE, research shows

A charity has condemned the "heartbreaking" failure to support disadvantaged deaf children – who do worse at school than other deaf children.

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) says its new analysis of government data shows that the average GCSE grade for hearing children without a special educational need is 5, but this drops to 3.9 for deaf children and 2.96 for those deaf children on free school meals.

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“It’s heartbreaking that in the 21st century, just because a child is born deaf and in a low-income family, they will underachieve at school and fail to get the support they need," Helen Cable, director of children, young people and families at the NDCS, said.

“This should be a rallying cry for everyone who works with deaf children, from the government and the NHS to councils, schools and charities. We all need to do everything we can to make sure deaf children from low-income families get the best possible support.’’

Earlier this week the NDCS published an analysis from Scotland showing that 8 per cent of deaf students left school without qualifications last year, compared with 1 per cent of their hearing classmates.

Deaf children 'need more support'

Today's analysis comes as the charity highlighted research by the University of Edinburgh about the experiences of deaf children in low-income families. 

The report, "Telling it like it is: Experiences of families living on a low income with deaf children", says that 16 to 37 per cent of deaf children living in the UK are from low-income backgrounds.

The researchers carried out a review of previous studies and interviewed 21 low-income families across the UK with a deaf child aged 12 or under.

Rachel O’Neill, of the University of Edinburgh, who led the research project, said: “Many of the families we interviewed didn’t receive enough advice or support from education and health services in their deaf child’s crucial early years.

"They also found support and events more difficult to access and the resources provided by the school system often fell short of what their deaf child needed. 

“Local authorities, voluntary organisations and school services can, and must, do more to empower families on low incomes and ensure that they’re reaching every deaf child, helping them to thrive socially and academically.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our ambition for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is exactly the same as for every other child and young person – to achieve well in school and college, find employment and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

“That is why we have increased high-needs funding for children and young people with the most complex SEND, from £5 billion in 2013 to £6.3 billion this year, including an additional £250 million we announced in December.

“We are well aware that local authorities and schools are facing challenges in managing their budgets in the context of increasing costs and rising levels of demand. And we are looking carefully at how much funding for education will be needed in future years, as we approach the next spending review.”

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Jasleen Mann

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