Deaf pupils face a postcode lottery when it comes to the level of support they receive from specialist teachers, research has revealed.
There is a wide disparity in the numbers of specially trained teachers employed in different local authorities, according to a survey by the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS). The numbers range from one teacher per six deaf pupils in the best-performing authorities to one per 142 children in the worst, the society said.
Brian Gale, NDCS director of policy and campaigns, said: "We are surprised at the results; something needs to be done because these variations wouldn't be tolerated in other local authority services.
"For example, you would not find class sizes of 25 pupils in one local authority and 125 in another."
The findings conclude that each visiting teacher of the deaf is working on average with 42 deaf children. However, in at least 29 local authority support services the ratio is far greater, with more than 60 children per specialist teacher.
Hillingdon and Medway have more than 100 children to every teacher - in Bexley it is 142. All three local authorities refused to comment on the survey's findings.
Approximately 30,000 deaf pupils attend mainstream schools in England, but without specialist support it is feared that mainstream teachers can struggle. In 2006, Ofsted research concluded that deaf children who work with specialist teachers make greater academic progress.
Last year, only 21 per cent of deaf pupils achieved five GCSE grades A* to C compared with 51 per cent of all children.
One teacher of the deaf from the West Midlands, where there is a teacher for every 60 pupils, told NDCS researchers: "We can't do the job properly if we don't have the resources to do it."
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he wants to improve the life chances of pupils with hearing impairments, with more specialist teachers and improved acoustics in classes.
The NDCS published a transcript of a meeting with Mr Gove, in which he told the charity: "The situation we have at the moment, where deaf children haven't achieved the same academic results as other children, is unjustifiable."
There is still debate among specialist teachers of the deaf about the best way to improve results. Some advocate teaching use of British sign language, while others prefer teaching in English to encourage children develop speaking and lip- reading skills.
The NDCS is calling for a "national core offer" where Government sets the standards of support to be met by each local authority. "The Government needs to look at the attainment gap between deaf children and non-deaf children," said Mr Gale.
42 - Average number of pupils teachers of the deaf work with
A specialist will ...
- Provide direct teaching to deaf children;
- support parents of pre-school deaf children at home and in early years, advising them on communication and language;
- advise mainstream teachers so that they know how to teach in a deaf-friendly way;
- check school and classroom acoustics for quality;
- provide schools with equipment, such as radio aid systems;
- work with other professionals, including audiologists, speech and language therapists and SEN co-ordinators.