Support for deaf pupils slashed by £4m

Almost one in three authorities are cutting budgets used to support deaf children's education, research shows

Helen Ward

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Support for deaf children’s education is being slashed by millions of pounds, a new survey shows.

Almost a third of councils are cutting back on spending for deaf children this year –  cutting £4 million of support in these areas, the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has discovered.

The figures, obtained by the charity through freedom of information requests, show that of the 122 areas that answered, 45 were planning cuts.

The NDCS says the system that deaf children rely on is being “torn apart” and it has accused the government of “woeful complacency”.

“Deaf children can achieve anything other children can, but to do this it is crucial they get the right support,” Susan Daniels, the chief executive of the NDCS, said.

“Despite councils having a legal duty to support deaf children, we are seeing the vital support system that they rely on for their education torn apart. Deaf children are falling even further behind at school, and the government’s response is nothing short of woeful complacency.

"Ministers can talk until they are blue in the face about their reforms and record investment in the system, but as this data shows, that is a complete fantasy for deaf children who are facing huge cuts to their educational support."

Deaf children's 'potential is being squandered'

The support for deaf children funded by councils may include specialist teachers of the deaf, communication support workers, technology to help children communicate in the classroom, British Sign Language classes and family support workers.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, added: “Today’s figures should shame us all. The incredible potential of deaf children is being extinguished because the system that supports them is being completely undermined.”

“We need leadership, and the Department for Education urgently needs to step up to the plate and solve this mounting crisis. If Theresa May genuinely wants to make good on her pledge to tackle the burning injustices in our society, then her government needs show more than warm words to the country’s deaf children.”

Government data shows that at GCSE, more than two-thirds of deaf children failed to achieve a "good" grade 5 in both English and maths last year, compared with 57 per cent of all pupils.

And a report earlier this year revealed that the number of specialist teachers of the deaf has been cut by 14 per cent since 2010.

Wendy McCracken, professor of deaf education at the University of Manchester, said: “Deaf children should be achieving more than ever before, but repeated cuts mean their potential is being squandered. The lives of deaf children will absolutely be limited by having dwindling support, and this will have a big impact on their lives for many years to come.”  

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: "Councils know that deafness can make life incredibly difficult for some children who experience it, and take their responsibilities to support not just deaf children, but all those with special educational needs or disabilities, through education, extremely seriously.

"We have made it clear for some time now that there must be additional and on-going funding from the Government to enable us to support high-needs children and their families, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and these children could miss out on a mainstream education.

“This is why we are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the unprecedented rise in demand for support from children with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Nadhim Zahawi, minister for children and families, said: “We want every child to have the support they need to unlock their potential, no matter what challenges they face. The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year – the highest on record  and core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion by 2020 – a 50 per cent real terms per pupil increase from 2000.

“On top of this, last week we announced new contracts worth more than £25 million to help children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities – including those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment – have access to excellent support to help guide them through the new system of SEN reforms.”

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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