Campaigners are calling for government action after new figures revealed that 35 per cent of local authorities are to cut education services for deaf children in 2013/14.
Freedom of Information requests to England’s 150 local authorities by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) also found that a further 28 per cent are considering cuts or are currently undertaking reviews of their provision.
The projections are based on responses received from 149 of the local authorities.
The cuts could mean reductions in the numbers of specialist teaching staff – including teachers of the deaf and speech and language therapists – reductions to equipment budgets, social care, or what the charity calls “negative changes to eligibility criteria” for services.
Specialist teachers of the deaf provide one-to-one support to help deaf children overcome communication barriers in the classroom, ensure the equipment they use, such as hearing aids, is working, and support classroom teachers to meet the needs of deaf children.
The NDCS arrived at Parliament last Thursday (May 16) with its “Listening Bus” in a bid to convince MPs to support their campaign.
The event saw a group of deaf young people on hand to talk with MPs about their hopes for the future and the kind of help they need in school. Among this group was Sam Fuller, who was able to talk with minister for disabled people Esther McVey during the day.
Susan Daniels, chief executive at NDCS, said: “In the wake of the information coming through for 2013/14, we are calling on the national government to step up to the plate and hold councils to account for decisions that are leaving deaf children without a future.”
She added: “These specialist services are a lifeline to parents and they tell us that they are looking for clear leadership on this issue.”
It comes after figures released in January showed that the achievement of deaf children fell last year for the first time since records began in 2007.
As SecEd reported at the time, annual GCSE statistics for England show that 37.3 per cent of deaf children achieved the government’s benchmark of five GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths in 2012 – compared to 39.7 per cent in 2011.
Notably, the fall came as the attainment rate for all children with SEN rose 0.3 per cent, from 22.1 per cent in 2011 to 22.4 per cent in 2012.
In January, Jo Campion, deputy director of policy and campaigns at the NDCS, told SecEd that the rise in achievement among all SEN children confirms a “specific neglect of deaf children”.
She added: “Deafness is not a learning disability and there is no reason why most deaf children should not be doing as well as other children. We now need the government to take responsibility for the children they are setting up to fail, and stop cuts being made before the attainment gap becomes even wider.”
This week, Ms Daniels said the new wave of cuts would mean this situation only gets worse: “We are deeply concerned that specialist support for deaf children continues to be at risk. Services such as teachers of the deaf are not a luxury, they are absolutely vital.”
The NDCS’s Stolen Futures campaign against the cuts has seen nearly 50,000 people sign a petition so far calling on the Department for Education to intervene at a national level and ensure that local authorities protect funding for deaf children.
The Stolen Futures petition is at www.ndcs.org.uk/petition
To read SecEd’s January report, visit http://bit.ly/XjKaNA CAPTION: Cuts campaign: Esther McVey, minister for disabled people (centre), speaks with deaf student Sam Fuller and Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children Society, on the charity’s Listening Bus at the Houses of Parliament. Photo: NDCS/ Paul Tanner