Deaf pupils live in fear of bullies

24th September 1999 at 01:00
DEAF children are frequently bullied by classmates in mainstream schools, according to researchers.

Former pupils told researchers their academic lives had been dominated by bullying or the fear of it.

A Review of Good Practice in Deaf Education, by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, also notes the heavy workload carried by teachers of deaf children and the variation in funding between different areas.

The 218-page report includes 15 case studies, and reports from parents, teachers and deaf adults.

All groups believed that low expectations damaged deaf children's progress. Deaf adults and parents commented on poor classroom support, discrimination and lack of awareness, while teachers criticised late diagnosis and poor parental backing.

When it came to learning language and communication, teachers favoured a systematic app-roach while parents wanted more flexibility and choice in methods.

Parents were concerned that the professionals were too inflexible over whether children should follow bilingual approaches to communication involving signing, or oral approaches which make the most of any residual hearing pupils may have.

The research team, from Birmingham and Manchester universities, also investigated the experiences of deaf people who had recently left school.

They said: "Particularly depressing were tales of bullying and teasing by hearing children, mentioned by very many former mainstream pupils. Even if children were not bullied, they feared it and some felt isolated, lonely and fearful.

"Even allowing for the elapse of a number of years and developments within them, the amount of disquiet relating to the primary and secondary years is salutary."

The report praised the high professional standards of teachers of deaf children. But teachers are working extremely hard, suggesting that extra staff are needed to maintain high standards, the report concludes.

Karen Thornton

"A Review of Good Practice in Deaf Education, Universities of Birmingham and Manchester, available from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, telephone 0870 6050123 (voice), and 0870 6033007 (text)

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