The organisations detailed their concerns in submissions to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, which is investigating the provision of schooling for children and young people with a sensory impairment.
The inquiry follows recent publication of data showing a clear gap in attainment with their peers. Deaf pupils have an average qualification tariff score of 289 against 439 for those that can hear, and pupils with a visual impairment score an average of 249. Five times as many deaf pupils leave school without any qualifications – 10 per cent – as other school-leavers.
The National Deaf Children’s Society highlighted the lack of information about the number of pupils needing support. “There is currently no complete national data set on numbers of deaf children and young people in Scotland,” it said in its submission.
“Without a basic understanding of the numbers of deaf children and their needs it is difficult for national and local government to effectively plan service delivery.”
The society said the Scottish government had never published any guidance around early years support and information for children and their families.
“There is often much disparity across local authorities in terms of how they deliver education support to deaf learners,” it added.
A separate submission from the Scottish Council on Deafness said British Sign Language (BSL) should be integrated into the curriculum. The British Deaf Association Scotland supported that proposal, saying: “Physically being in the local school is often not linguistic inclusion at all. Where parents choose this option, we believe local authorities should support it with properly qualified interpreters.”
The Royal National Institute for the Blind Scotland also called for more rigorous collection of statistics on pupils with visual impairment.
“To ensure blind and partially sighted children are provided with the best start there needs to be a significant shift in emphasis to delivering family support at the very earliest stage.”
The emotional and practical guidance that parents needed was “extremely variable” across the country, the institute said.
“The result of this minimalist approach is that visually impaired children are developmentally delayed, their movement is hindered and their interaction and understanding of the world is restricted.”
Another charity, the Royal Blind, emphasised the need for better training of teachers and also said many qualified teachers of the visually impaired had retired lately, leaving a shortage.
“This is evidenced in some local authority areas where there is only one teacher who has a remit covering additional support needs and sensory support needs, without the necessary qualification.”