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Lack of teachers of deaf uncovered

The RNID has called for the Government to set up grants to encourage more teachers to train to teach deaf children. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Golden hellos should be given to trainee teachers to encourage them to specialise in teaching deaf and hearing-impaired pupils, says a report.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People believes that up to 30 places a year for the next three years should be funded through government bursaries because deaf children in mainstream schools are getting a poor deal due to a lack of qualified teachers.

The study, At the Heart of Inclusion: the role of specialist support for deaf pupils, says local authorities have problems recruiting and retaining teachers of the deaf, with more than four-out-of-ten resource centres for hearing-impaired children having no qualified staff.

At present there are 2,400 teachers of the deaf in England and Wales but provision is patchy. In some local authorities each specialist teacher has up to 130 pupils to support. London is particularly poorly served.

The report, which looked at provision in ten rural and urban local authorities in England, found that support for deaf children ranged from a one-woman service to a centre employing 16 teachers.

A fifth of local authorities had no specialist provision other than a school for the deaf, and a further 20 per cent had a school and a resource centre. The rest had a resource centre and out-of-borough provision.

The study also found concerns surrounding funding and the potential threat to delegated services.

Half of resource centres had been delegated and almost a third of heads did not know what their budgets were. Four out of ten complained their budgets had been cut.

Teachers of the deaf said they wanted better liaison with agencies such as social services and said there was a lack of co-operation.

Ofsted inspectors were criticised for a lack of expertise in evaluating provision for deaf children. One head said he was "appalled" that inspectors did not talk to pupils or show any interest in their work.

Suzanne Mackenzie, RNID's head of education, said: "Our research confirms the successful aspects of the work of the special needs support service.

"But for deaf children, the limited provision of specialist support and teachers of the deaf in mainstream schools could be damaging their education.

"With such inequality of provision... the educational chances of some deaf children are diminished, which can seriously affect their life chances.

"The government needs to extend its recruitment initiatives and fund further training of specialist staff."

Mark Geraghty, head of communication, language, autism and sensory services with Oxfordshire county council, said: "As local education authorities, schools and families continue to demand the advice and intervention proffered by teachers of the deaf, we need the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to support the involvement of these specially-trained and highly-motivated teachers."

A spokesman for the DfES refused to be drawn on whether financial incentives would be offered. "The government is aware of concerns about the number of teachers of the deaf, and has recently produced a leaflet publicising the role of specialist teachers, in conjunction with RNID and others," he said.

"The precise deployment of specialist teachers and support for training, including acquisition of the relevant mandatory qualification, is a matter for their employers to determine."

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