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Choosing a deaf-friendly school

Photo: Talk about school options with your child so you decide on one you’re both happy with

Choosing the right primary or secondary school for your child is very important as it will influence their educational, social and emotional development.

Try to involve them as much as possible in the decision. How they feel about their school will have an effect on their learning. Gather all the information you can to help you feel confident in making a choice that both you and your child will be happy with. Watch our video for ideas of things to think about when choosing a school.

The process of choosing a school will be different depending on where you live in the UK.

Different types of school for deaf children

There are lots of  different types of school for deaf children, but they broadly fit into three categories.

  • Mainstream
  • Special
  • Residential

Mainstream school

Mainstream schools cater for children of all abilities. Some state-funded mainstream schools have specialist units or bases for deaf children (known as resource provision). This can mean that one or more of the classrooms may have been adapted especially for teaching deaf children.

In some schools, deaf children will take part in mainstream classes, with or without support from a communication support worker (CSW), teaching assistant or learning support assistant. In other schools, deaf children are taught in the unit for some or all lessons. Attending a school with a specialist unit counts as attending a mainstream school.

All children have a right to attend a mainstream school unless placing them there would ‘prevent the efficient education of the other children in the school’. It’s unlawful for a mainstream state school to refuse a place to a child on the grounds that it’s unable to meet the child’s special educational needs.

We have lots of information about deaf children’s rights in education across the UK.

You can also download our Quality Standards: Resource provisions for deaf children and young people in mainstream schools in English and Welsh.

Special school

Special schools teach children with special educational needs or disabilities. Some schools only cover one area, such as deafness or autism while other schools may support children with a range of additional needs, including deafness. These schools will have specialist equipment, staff, support and teaching strategies to help meet the needs of the children.

Your child will normally need a statement of special educational needs (SEN) (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan (England) or a coordinated support plan (CSP) (Scotland) to attend a special school.

There are over 20 schools for deaf children in the UK. If you think you would like your child to go to a special school for deaf children, have a look at our list of special schools for deaf children in the UK to start researching which special school might be right for them.

Watch our video about supporting deaf children in special schools.

Residential school

Residential schools are where children can stay overnight, and, in some schools, over the weekend as well. Some special schools are also residential schools.

Schools can also either be state-funded or they can be private schools (sometimes known as independent schools). It’s important to be aware that children at private schools aren’t normally eligible for support from the local authority specialist education service for deaf children or Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs), unless the school purchases this support from the local authority.

Private schools must still follow the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales or the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005.

For general information on all the different types of schools in the UK, visit

Choosing a deaf-friendly school where you live