Cuts to supporting deaf children in schools leaves their education “at breaking point”


The National Deaf Children's Society is a British charity, founded in 1944, to help deaf children and their parents. It is a multifaceted organisation, offering not only educational support, but help with benefits claims and welfare rights, along with advice concerning any audio technology that may offer assistance.

The society has recently issued statements that as many as one in ten teachers for the deaf have had their jobs axed in the last ten years - and it seems like there are worse things to come. Jo Campion, the deputy director of the National Deaf Children's Society, recently presented research indicating that a third of the councils in the England are planning to cut their funding for deaf children. She said that the services were already at "breaking point.”

A freedom of information request made by the The National Deaf Children's Society revealed that £4 million will soon be cut from 122 councils across England. Bristol council - one of the hardest to be hit in the forthcoming cuts, issued the following statement”

“The decision has been taken to halt the majority of savings proposals till the current review of these services has been carried out.”

The Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, said that the extent of these cuts should “shame us all. The incredible potential of deaf children is being extinguished because the system that supports them is being completely undermined.”

Local governments are duty bound to provide support for ‘high needs children’ (a category that includes deaf children) - but the actual nature of this support can vary widely from area to area. Along with regular assistance in the classroom, it is usual for a specialist teacher to assess deaf pupils on a termly basis, and provide detailed information to the school, family and doctors. In some areas though there is only one specialist teacher for every 100 students, a situation that will likely mean deaf children are missing out on important aspects of their education.

Already deaf children are falling far behind their peers, with new figures revealing that six out of ten of them are failing to achieve the governments GCSE benchmark grades.

The chief executive of the The National Deaf Children's Society Susan Daniels stressed just how important it is that deaf children are given the support they need:

“Deaf children can achieve anything other children can, but to do this it is crucial they get the right support. Despite councils having a legal duty to support deaf children, we are seeing the vital support system that they rely on for their education torn apart.”

Ten years on from the financial crisis it seems we are still living in times of austerity, with virtually all public sectors having suffered considerable cuts - but even with the need to reduce state spending, it feels somewhat amiss that the world’s fifth largest economy finds it necessary to reduce the help given to deaf children.

Children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the budget for those pupils with special educational needs is the highest on record this year:

"The high-needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year - the highest on record, and core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion by 2020,"

A recent report on behalf of the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education, conducted by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) (CRIDE) showed there to be a 4% drop in the numbers of qualified teachers of the deaf in the last five years; while the actual number of deaf children has risen by 2% during last year.

The UK has about 45,000 deaf children, and if they are not given the support they need, they education they need and deserve, they will be facing very dire prospects indeed.

The NDCS chief executive Susan Daniels continued was emphatic on just how damaging these cuts will be:

“Despite councils having a legal duty to support deaf children, we are seeing the vital support system that they rely on for their education torn apart.”

It may be insouciant to suggest that children suffering from a particular affliction can be empowered by learning about successful individuals whose lives were not blighted by their disability - but there seems to me to be a paucity of deaf role models.

While the case of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s deafness is surely known to all, fewer people are aware that the great inventor Thomas Edison had profound hearing impairment. The great pacifist, lecturer, and author Hellen Keller was both blind and deaf, and the actress Marlee Matlin, best known for her outstanding performance in the film ‘Children of a lesser god’ became deaf when she was just 18 months old.