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Deaf pupils achieve an entire GCSE grade less for sixth year running

Published Date: 09 Aug 2021
  • On average, deaf pupils received a grade 4 for each subject – hearing children gained a grade 5.
  • Deafness is not a learning disability, so there’s no reason deaf children should achieve less.
  • Figures show the grade-wide gap goes back to at least 2015, when Attainment 8 data began. During that time, specialist teachers for deaf children have been slashed by 10%.
  • The charity says the Government must “stop the injustice” and take action to give deaf children all the support they need, starting with a bursary to increase the number of specialist staff.

Deaf pupils in England have now achieved an entire GCSE grade less than hearing pupils for at least six years in a row, the National Deaf Children’s Society has revealed.

New analysis of 2020’s GCSE results shows that the average score for deaf pupils was a grade 4, compared to a grade 5 for hearing children.

There has been a gap of an entire grade between the two groups every single year since Attainment 8 data was first published in 2015. Despite improvements in technology and the early identification of deafness, the charity says there is still little sign of it closing.

The new figures also reveal a significant gap in achievement for key subjects English and Maths. Just 35.1% of deaf children gained a grade 5 in both subjects, compared to 55.8% of hearing children.

All pupils were assessed by their teachers last year after GCSE exams were cancelled, but deafness is not a learning disability and the National Deaf Children's Society says deaf pupils are being badly let down by a SEND system that simply doesn’t support them.

The charity says that many deaf pupils, and their classroom teachers, need access to specialist staff like Teachers of the Deaf to succeed at school. Over the last six years however, one in ten Teachers of the Deaf have been cut, with their numbers falling from 995 to 903.

With the Government’s SEND Review now imminent, the charity says that the “broken” system must change to allow every deaf child to reach their full potential, with an increase in specialist staff the key priority.

Specifically, it wants the Department for Education to introduce a bursary to train hundreds more Teachers of the Deaf to replace those who have been lost, giving deaf pupils access to crucial expertise and one-on-one support.

It is also calling on the Government to use the SEND Review to examine and change how deaf children are supported from the time their deafness is identified, giving all of them the chance to reach their full potential.

The charity says this starts with making sure that any post-Covid-19 tuition and catch-up lessons are fully accessible, with reasonable adjustments made whenever a deaf pupil needs them.

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

“The latest GCSE results are yet more stark evidence that thousands of deaf pupils simply aren’t getting the support they need.

“Deafness isn’t a learning disability so there’s no reason why they should achieve less than hearing children, yet they consistently do. This should seriously concern everyone involved in the education of deaf pupils.

“The Government’s upcoming SEND Review is a golden opportunity to fix a broken system and make it work for everyone. This should start with investing in specialist staff, making sure any catch-up sessions are fully accessible and giving every deaf pupil the same chance to reach their potential.

“Every child in this country has been promised a superb education, so it’s time to start delivering on that for deaf children too.”