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Quality standards in early years services for deaf children

Photo: Find out about quality standards for deaf children

What should services be doing to support deaf children in the early years? We’ve produced some quality standards that set out what we expect all good services to be doing.

What do we mean by early years services?

Your child will probably have a range of different professionals supporting them in their early years (ages 0–5), including:

  • education services, such as Teachers of the Deaf
  • health services, such as newborn hearing screening and audiology services
  • speech and language therapy services
  • childcare providers
  • social care and other family support services.

You have the right to expect that all these services will work together to meet the needs of your child.

What support should my child be getting?

The support you and your child receive will vary, depending on your child’s needs. What’s important is that services are working in a way that helps your child to achieve the same outcomes as hearing children of the same age, particularly in language and communication.

If your child isn’t making good progress or is falling further behind, it may be that services aren’t working well to support your child.

If this happens, you may want to talk to the professional who is working most closely with your child, for example, your child’s Teacher of the Deaf (if they have one) or the manager of your child's nursery, preschool, playgroup etc. to discuss what can be done to support your child better.

What do I have a right to expect from services?

Although support varies depending on need, we believe that there are a number of things that you have a right to expect.

  • Your child should be screened for a hearing loss soon after birth.
  • Audiology services should be accredited under the Improving Quality in Physiological Services (IQIPS) programme. If an audiology service is accredited, you can be more confident that it will deliver a good service to your child.
  • Audiology services should make sure that your child is diagnosed quickly. If your child needs a hearing aid, they should make sure your child is fitted with one as soon as possible.
  • A Teacher of the Deaf should contact you two to five days after your child has been diagnosed as deaf. If you agree, they should come and visit you within 10 working days. The Teacher of the Deaf should provide you with clear information about what support the education service for deaf children can offer and answer any questions you might have about deafness.
  • Education, health and social care services should work together to make sure assessments of your child’s needs are, where possible, joined up so that you have a complete picture of your child’s needs. In particular, any assessments should include information on your child’s language and communication needs. You should receive a written report within 10 days of an assessment that explains in clear language what your child’s needs are and what support you and your child may need.
  • If your child is going to a nursery, preschool or any other education provider, the Teacher of the Deaf should make contact with the provider within a month of them being notified that your child is going there. The Teacher of the Deaf should already have provided you with information about different education options for your child and should keep in close contact about any decisions you make.
  • If your child would benefit from a radio aid, you should be provided with one by the education service. You should also have the opportunity to try out different types of equipment.
  • The education service should regularly measure the progress your child is making, particularly around language and communication. If your child isn’t making good progress, the service should develop a plan for how they will support your child to catch up.
  • All staff working with your child should be appropriately qualified. For example, Teachers of the Deaf should have an additional qualification so that they can teach deaf children.
  • You should be asked regularly for your views on how well services are meeting the needs of your child.

Does the law say that services must do all of the above?

The Equality Act 2010 requires that all services in Great Britain promote equality of opportunity for disabled children and make ‘reasonable adjustments’. In England, the Children and Families Act 2014 also says that your child should be supported to achieve the best possible outcomes, and that you should be fully involved in all decisions about your child.

However, the law doesn’t say exactly what services should do to support your child. This is why we’ve written quality standards for early years services – to provide guidance to professionals on what good practice looks like.

Services don’t have to follow our quality standards. But they do have to make sure your child gets the same opportunities to do well and achieve the best possible outcomes as hearing children. So if your child isn’t making good progress in their language and communication, you should ask the services why this is and what action they’re taking to improve their service.

What guidance do you provide for professionals?

Our Quality Standards: Early years support for children with a hearing loss, aged 0 to 5 years is written for professionals and provides more detail on what we think services should be doing to support deaf children.

It also includes an audit tool where services can check how well they think they’re doing. You can ask your local services if they’ve used this audit tool and, if they have, to give you a copy of their audit.

You could give our guide Supporting the Achievement of Hearing Impaired Children in Early Years Settings to your child’s nursery teacher or other early years staff. Or have a look at our other resources for professionals.