A deaf pupil lobbied ministers and MPs at the Conservative Party conference last week in an attempt to stop government cuts from hitting services for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
Ellen Arthur, 15, highlighted the work of the Stolen Futures campaign, being run by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), which aims to stop local authorities cutting provision such as note-takers and other classroom support.
Ellen, a pupil at Larkmead School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, met with Neil Carmichael, a member of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, and Edward Timpson, the new children’s minister, to discuss the plight of deaf children in education.
She told SecEd: “So far, my own local authority has not made any cuts that have affected my provision at school, but I have friends in other areas who have had their note-takers and specialist tutors taken away. It is hard to see how these students can access education properly without this sort of help.
“Mr Carmichael, who said he was deaf in one ear, was very sympathetic and said he would raise our concerns. But in the meantime, we need to continue to fight so deaf children can achieve their potential.”
Ellen, who is profoundly deaf and has a cochlear implant in her left ear, has a statement of SEN and gets specialist support from a teacher of the deaf and a teaching assistant. She would like to become a teacher of the deaf.
Jo Campion, the NDCS deputy director of policy and campaigns, who accompanied Ellen to the conference, said about a third of England’s councils will cut specialist support by March 2013.
“We have seen a loss of specialist equipment and support staff who not only help the pupils but also ensure that teachers are aware of the needs of deaf children in mainstream schools,” she said.
“At a time of financial cuts and reforms to special needs we need to ensure that deaf children have the help and support to achieve and do well at school.”
According to figures there are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK, and six out of 10 fail to achieve five A* to C grade GCSEs, compared to 30 per cent of other children. Almost nine out of 10 deaf children are educated in mainstream schools.
Ms Campion added: “With the right support, deaf children can do as well as other children.
“However, without it, deaf children face social isolation, low self-esteem and are at risk of underachieving in school.” CAPTION: Lobby: (from top) Ellen Arthur speaks with the new children’s minister Edward Timpson at the Conservative Party conference and with her local MP Nicola Blackwood