The provisions and support for deaf children have been dramatically impacted by recent political changes. Since 2010, there have been significant cuts to council budgets from the Conservative Government. Now 89% of directors of children's social care services say they are struggling to meet their statutory duties to disabled and vulnerable children.
I am very concerned that the numbers of teachers with a specialist teaching qualification in Sign Language have fallen by 12% since 2010. The National Deaf Children’s Society has reported that half of the teachers currently specialising in teaching deaf children are due to retire within the next 10-15 years. The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf believes "there is a huge tension between the policy of inclusion and reality". The professional body states that class size, target setting, whole class teaching, and streaming make it very difficult for all children with severe communication difficulties to participate independently in mainstream education.
Most deaf children attend mainstream schools. Some of these schools have resources led by specially qualified Teachers of the Deaf. A smaller number of children are taught in special schools, some of which offer residential provision. It is a requirement that pupils in these schools are taught by appropriately qualified specialist Teachers of the Deaf and that they obtain this qualification within three years of beginning their work with deaf pupils.
The National Deaf Children’s Society is also concerned that the significant cuts made to council budgets by the Conservative Government mean that deaf children are unable to access some support services as a result. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has held a year-long investigation into the state of children's social care and has published its report, "No Good Options". The report found 89% of directors of children's social care services are struggling to meet their statutory duties to disabled and vulnerable children.
At the General Election, Labour’s manifesto promised to deliver a strategy for children based on investment and services which are inclusive. Labour campaigned to embed special educational needs training within the Government training courses for both teaching and non-teaching staff. By encouraging people who work in education to undergo special educational needs training, a Labour government would be able to build a more supportive and secure education system for deaf children.
It is now time for the Conservative Government to take steps to invest in the education of all children, as Labour has outlined.