Almost one in five councils in England have cut services for deaf children, some by scrapping posts for specialist teachers and cutting budgets for radio aids, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
There have been cuts in 28 local authorities. In Stoke-on-Trent, five "teachers of the deaf" posts have been cut in the past two years. The visiting teachers train mainstream staff and provide extra support to help deaf children.
The cuts are detailed in responses to FoI requests by the National Deaf Children's Society. In Thurrock, Essex, the council confirmed it was cutting a teacher of the deaf who specialises in early-years education, leaving one teacher to support about 90 children.
In Sandwell, West Midlands, one post was being cut, leaving 5.5 staff to support about 51 deaf children each. The council added that "the frequency and duration of support to some individual children will be reduced".
In Cumbria, the council said 2.8 posts were being cut, leaving 5.8 teachers supporting about 52 children each.
Cuts were expressed as fractions where local authorities are reducing hours or referring to part-time posts.
Susan Daniels, the chief executive of the society, said: "We are appalled at these widespread cuts to vital education services for deaf children across the country.
"The support being taken away is not an optional extra; it is absolutely crucial for deaf children's learning and development, particularly as they are already underachieving compared with other children. We are so alarmed about the long-term impact of these cuts that we will support families in legally challenging reductions to services."
The charity estimates that 75% of deaf children in England do not have a statement of special educational needs (SEN), which would give them a legal entitlement to support. This puts them at a greater risk of losing specialist help. While deafness is not considered a learning disability, it has an impact on a child's ability to keep up in mainstream classrooms and socialise with children who can hear.
Robyn Mowat, from Kendal, Cumbria, whose daughter Michaela, 11, was diagnosed with hearing loss at six months, said: "She doesn't have any learning difficulties but she is behind academically ... What [the cuts] are going to mean is that she won't have access to the support she needs. "Michaela doesn't want to be seen as different, but she knows that she needs this support just to fit in and be able to access learning." (Both are pictured.)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
The Guardian in the UK:
Posted by BA Haller at 5:04 PM