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Deaf children fall behind at school as staff caseloads soar

Published Date: 07 Nov 2018
  • New analysis highlights the deepening crisis facing deaf children’s education, with rising caseloads and recruitment problems rife
  • Figures from the National Deaf Children’s Society show the average caseload for specialist Teachers of the Deaf has risen 36% in just four years
  • One in ten Teachers of the Deaf have also been cut in the same period
  • Deaf children already fall a grade behind their hearing classmates at GCSE
  • Case study: Bedford parent Andrew Joy has two deaf children. One has already fallen behind at school, leading to him fearing for their education
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society today warned that the system is “under siege” and said “intransigence was no longer an option”
  • The new analysis comes as deaf children’s services experience mounting funding pressures, with local authorities planning £4m of cuts this year

Deaf children risk falling even further behind at school because of ballooning caseloads for specialist teachers, the National Deaf Children’s Society has warned.

New analysis from the charity shows that the caseloads of Teachers of the Deaf have risen by 36% in the last four years. 

In 2013, Teachers of the Deaf were supporting 44 deaf children on average, rising to 49 in 2015. The latest annual survey of local authorities, carried out in 2017, shows that each Teacher of the Deaf is now supporting an average of 60 deaf children, with the charity predicting the situation is set to get worse.

During this time, one in ten Teachers of the Deaf have also been cut.

The figures come after a recent report revealed over a third of local councils plan to cut deaf children’s education budgets by a total of £4 million this year. Deaf children already fall a grade behind their hearing classmates at GCSE and the attainment gap is widening.

The National Deaf Children’s Society also says a recruitment crisis is looming in deaf children’s education.

Almost one in seven councils already say they have one Teacher of the Deaf for more than 100 pupils, while 45% report problems in recruiting Teachers of the Deaf or supply cover in the past year. More than half of those that are in post are over 50, meaning they are set to retire within 10-15 years.

The charity is calling on the Government to introduce a bursary fund to avert a recruitment crisis that would leave thousands of deaf children without crucial support.

The £3.5 million scheme would help train more than 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 expected to leave their roles.

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“These figures show a profession under threat and an education system under siege.

“Councils face unprecedented levels of demand on their special needs budgets and deaf children’s support is being cut at a rate of knots, but the Government keeps up its repeated claims of record investment in the system. The evidence we see on the ground shows this couldn’t be further than the truth.

“Almost all deaf children are born to hearing parents and they are often the only deaf pupil at their school, so the support Teachers of the Deaf provide to children, parents and teachers is absolutely crucial.

“A bursary is not the silver bullet, but it’s a crucial first step in stemming the tide of departures from the profession. It would provide a new generation of fully-trained teachers for an incredibly rewarding job that supports tens of thousands of deaf children each year.

“Deafness is not a learning disability and until there is no attainment gap between deaf and hearing children, the Government will still be failing in its duty of care. Intransigence is no longer an option. Children, their parents and their teachers need action, and they need it now.”

Emma Fraser has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf for the last 10 years. She said:

“Teachers of the Deaf play a vital role in the lives of deaf children and their families, from diagnosis right through their whole education.

“They work with deaf children to ensure they can develop language and communication right from the earliest stages of their life, supporting them and their families at every turn. They also provide advice and training for schools to ensure every deaf child gets the right support in class so they can reach their full potential.

“Such a massive increase in Teacher of the Deaf caseloads is incredibly worrying. If a Teacher of the Deaf has 60 children to support, it will become impossible for them to provide the personalised support that deaf children and their families rely on.

“Deaf children already have to overcome obstacles every day. Without enough one-to-one support from Teachers of the Deaf, they face a long, uphill battle just to keep pace with their hearing peers.”