Government urged to fund teachers for deaf children to avoid 'staffing crisis'

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The National Deaf Children's Society warns that without funding to pay for new specialist teachers 'deaf children's future hangs in the balance'.

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The NDCS says a £3.3 million bursary is needed to train new teachers of the deaf

The charity's warning follows a survey it carried out with the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, which revealed specialist teachers are battling stress, spiralling workloads and excessive hours.

Of the 625 specialist teacher for deaf children that responded to the survey, almost half (46 per cent) said they experience stress in their role on a weekly basis, with a quarter affected every day.

More than four in five are now working additional hours due to increasing workloads, with almost two-thirds of those forced to work an extra day every week to catch up.

The NDCS says that despite the Government’s major special educational needs reform in 2014, the entire profession is creaking under growing pressures and increasing needs, which will have grave knock-on effects for the 45,000 deaf children who rely on it.

Six-in-ten teachers surveyed said there was less support available for deaf children than in 2014, while almost half felt that pupils were now performing worse. Two-thirds said that deaf education in their area didn’t receive adequate funding.

According to the NDCS, the number of specialist teachers of deaf children has fallen by 15 per cent in the last seven years across England and the profession is heading towards a staffing crisis, with more than half of teachers still in the role due to retire in the next decade or so.

Training bursary call

It is now urging the Government to introduce a bursary fund to replace outgoing teachers and avoid thousands of deaf children being left without crucial support.

The charity says the £3.3 million scheme would help train around 400 new teachers of the deaf over a three-year period - the minimum number required to ‘stem the tide’ of those due to leave their roles. Almost nine in ten of the teachers surveyed said they supported such a proposal.

Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said, ‘The results of this survey show a system in absolute crisis. Specialist teachers do an incredible job in exceptionally difficult circumstances and play a vital role in the lives of deaf children. However, they are being crushed by the demands of a role which has become simply unsustainable.

‘Every child deserves the same chance in life, but unless specialist support services are adequately staffed and funded, teachers will remain overworked and under pressure while deaf children’s futures hang in the balance.

‘Damian Hinds [education secretary] and Nadhim Zahawi [children and families minster] have continually promised every child a world class education and there are some very cost-effective measures that would help achieve it, including a teacher of the deaf bursary.

‘We are urging them both to look at the mounting evidence, acknowledge the growing crisis and throw deaf children a lifeline before it’s too late.’

Comments

Responding to the survey findings, school leaders’ union NAHT said that all the Government’s good intentions on SEND will count for little if there are no professionals in place to deliver the support for pupils when they need it’.

Director of policy James Bowen said, ‘Specialist teachers are a lifeline for children with special educational needs, and for their families, offering not just education but desperately needed support and advice in all areas, from the moment of diagnosis.

‘If the number of specialist teachers is falling, that means vulnerable children not receiving support when they need it and being left to fend for themselves. Getting support in place early for deaf children is essential and without it, they will almost certainly not achieve their potential.

‘We desperately need more funding for education, as well as health and social care services, and a focus on teacher recruitment and retention.’

The Local Government Association said the survey is 'further evidence of the immense pressures councils and schools face supporting children with SEND'.

Chair of its Children and Young People Board, councillor Anntoinette Bramble, said, 'Councils know that deafness can make life incredibly difficult for some children who experience it, and are doing all they can to help them get the education they deserve.

'However they are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand, pushing support for children with SEND to a tipping point.

'While it was good the Government announced money for SEND last year, it must use the forthcoming Spending Review to plug the estimated special needs funding gap facing councils of up to £1.6 billion by 2021.'

Government response

A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'Our ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including those who are deaf, is  the same for any other child – to achieve well in education, and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

'It is up to local authorities to work with the schools in their area to identify the nature of specialist support services they commission, according to the needs of schools in their area.

'By far the most important factor in education and care is the people who deliver it. That is why we have launched the first-ever integrated recruitment and retention strategy that also set out our plans to improve professional development, career progression and flexible working opportunities for teachers.'

 

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