Learning needs of slightly deaf children are being ‘overlooked’


Serious learning issues in slightly deaf children are being “overlooked” in schools, researchers have warned.

Serious learning issues in slightly deaf children are being “overlooked” in schools, researchers have warned.

The problem means that academic achievement for students with mild hearing losses is no better than that for profoundly deaf children.

A study by the University of Edinburgh found that students with mild deafness received 1.6 hours of support each week, while those with moderate deafness got 2.6 hours. 

This compares to an average of 17.2 hours a week for profoundly deaf students.

The discrepancy, researchers say, is because slightly deaf children have better speech skills than their profoundly deaf peers, meaning serious learning issues can be “overlooked”.

This includes problems such as smaller vocabularies and difficulties in acquiring information by listening to lessons in class. As a result, resources are mainly targeted at children with more severe hearing loss.

The research looked at the educational achievement scores across all examinations of 540 pupils in Scotland aged 16. The difference in scores between the 144 pupils with mild deafness and the 128 with profound deafness was minimal.

The research comes after revelations last year that 35 per cent of local authorities in England were planning to cut education services for deaf children. 

The National Deaf Children’s Society warned at the time that 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 called “negative changes to eligibility criteria” for services.

There had been concern at the impact of the funding cuts after the 2012 GCSE results saw a fall in attainment for deaf students, despite a rise in results for SEN children overall.

The figures show that in 2012, 37.3 per cent of deaf children achieved the benchmark of five A* to C grades including English and maths compared to 39.7 per cent in 2011. However, in 2013, this figure rose to 42.7 per cent. 

Recommendations in the report include more support hours for children with mild hearing loss as well as improved acoustics in classrooms to help them hear better in lessons.

The study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that teachers did not always inform parents about poor literacy skills and did not always have high expectations for deaf pupils.

Dr Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education, said: “If we are serious about inclusion and getting it right for every child, the principle has to be about needs and not numbers. 

“A good place to start would be to identify ways we can increase communication and cooperation between parents, teachers, education authorities and researchers to arrest these disparities.”

The full report can be found at http://bit.ly/1rh5pOv


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