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A system in crisis: the daily battle for specialist teachers

Published Date: 18 Mar 2019
  • Specialist teachers have revealed the extreme pressures they face in their roles, with grave knock-on effects for 45,000 deaf children.
  • Almost half now face stress in their job every week and a quarter are affected every day.
  • More than four in five work extra hours just to keep up with their rising workloads, with more than half working an extra day a week.
  • More than half have serious concerns about the support available to deaf children, who are already falling behind at school.
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society says the results show a system in “absolute crisis” and it is calling on Education Ministers to “throw deaf children a lifeline before it’s too late”

Specialist teachers for deaf children are battling stress, spiralling workloads and excessive hours as the system falls into crisis, the National Deaf Children’s Society has warned.

The warning comes after a survey of more than 600 specialist teachers, carried out by the charity and the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, revealed that almost half (46%) experience stress in their role on a weekly basis, with a quarter (25%) affected every single day.

More than four in five (87%) are now working additional hours due to increasing workloads, with almost two thirds of those (63%) forced to work an extra day every week just to keep up.

The National Deaf Children’s Society says the entire profession is creaking under growing pressures and increasing needs despite the Government’s major special educational needs reforms in 2014, with grave knock-on effects for the 45,000 deaf children who rely on it.

Six in ten teachers surveyed (58%) said there was less support available for deaf children than in 2014, while almost half (43%) felt that pupils were now performing worse. Two thirds (69%) said that deaf education in their area didn’t receive adequate funding.

Deaf pupils already fall behind their classmates at Key Stages 1 and 2, with the gap growing to an entire grade by GCSE, despite deafness not being a learning disability.

Specialist teachers offer crucial advice and support to children and their families, from diagnosis right through their education. This can include help with developing language and communication, assistance with hearing technology and advice and training for schools to ensure every deaf pupil can succeed.

However, the National Deaf Children’s Society says the number of specialist teachers has fallen by 15% in the last seven years across England. In addition, the charity says the profession is heading towards a staffing crisis, with more than half of those teachers still in the role due to retire in the next 10-15 years.

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

The £3.3 million scheme would help train around 400 new Teachers of the Deaf over a three-year period, which the charity says is the minimum number required to stem the tide of those due to leave their roles. Almost nine in ten (88%) of the teachers surveyed said they supported such a proposal.

Susan Daniels OBE, 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 and Nadhim Zahawi 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.”

Steph Halder, President of the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, said:

“This survey highlights the increasing pressure dedicated Teachers of the Deaf find themselves under as they work tirelessly to meet the needs of deaf children and balance the demands of their role.

“The introduction of a training bursary would help to provide more teachers to the profession, relieve some of the pressure and ultimately support deaf children to achieve their potential.”