20 Nov 2018, Katy Morton
Of the 1,011 parents surveyed by the National Deaf Children’s Society, 82 per cent expressed concern over inadequate funding for deaf children’s education in their area.
More than 40 per cent of respondents said since the reforms made by the Government in 2014 to the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system, the situation has got worse. Just 5 per cent of respondents felt that things had improved.
The National Deaf Children’s Society warns that a lack of funding is decimating the SEND system and risks spiralling out of control.
It says that while there is no ‘silver bullet’, there are simple, cost-effective steps that the Government must take to safeguard deaf children’s education.
The charity’s warning comes as the Education Select Committee meets today to continue its inquiry into the reforms to the SEND system, hearing evidence from charities about whether they have been successful.
Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said, ‘These results tell a heartbreaking story of the state of deaf children’s education in this country. Despite the Government’s repeated claims of record funding, this evidence shows that support is simply not getting to the deaf children who so desperately need it.
‘We now find ourselves in a situation where an overwhelming majority of parents fear for the future of their deaf child’s education and this is completely unacceptable.
‘There is no silver bullet to solve this crisis. However, by setting up a fund to train new specialist teachers, plugging the £4m funding gap in deaf children’s services, along with Ofsted holding councils to account more forcefully, the Government can make real, affordable improvements to deaf children’s education.
‘If it doesn’t, it will be failing each and every one of them.’
Sarah Hepburn from Newcastle said the support for her daughter Isla, who was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss at birth, while at school has been ‘completely cut back to the bone’.
Sarah, who is parent to two daughters, Grace aged 12, and Isla, aged nine (pictured), says before Isla was fitted with cochlear implants at the age of three, she had no language skills. This has meant she has needed a lot of specialist support at school to develop her language and communication, and up until this year was receiving 15 hours a week of support from a teaching assistant. This has been cut to just three hours a week.
Ms Hepburn explained, ‘Earlier this year, we were told that the council and school could no longer fund the support Isla depends on. It’s this support that has let Isla thrive in school, and its been completely cut back to the bone.
‘As Isla has grown up, she has gone from strength to strength, amazing us at every turn with her resilience, showing us that she can do anything. The Government need to realise what is happening on their watch, and need to act before deaf children like Isla have their futures stolen.’
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said, 'Our ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including those who are deaf, is exactly the same for every other child – to achieve well in education, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.
'94 per cent of children who are hearing impaired attend a mainstream school while receiving expert support, and for those with more complex needs there are specialist deaf schools.
'We recognise that local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs which is why we are monitoring local authority spending decisions and keeping the overall level of funding under review. It is also why in 2018-19 councils will receive just under £6 billion of funding for young people with more complex SEND – a £1 billion increase since 2013.'