ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman reports on the lack of support for deaf pupils in schools
A charity has criticised a "shocking" lack of support for deaf pupils in schools, after a survey of teachers found two thirds don’t feel confident teaching them.
The findings, given exclusively to ITV News, also found a third of teachers are not receiving the expert support they need. Deaf children, on average, achieve lower grades in their GCSEs than hearing children. The National Deaf Children’s Society, which commissioned the research, is now calling for more investment in specialist staff, such as Teachers of the Deaf to support pupils and teachers.
It would benefit children like nine-year-old Thomas Fuller, who wears hearing aids in both ears, but who does not qualify for funding for dedicated support in school. He learns well one-to-one but can find it hard to follow the teacher in a busy classroom.
"Sometimes I don’t quite understand what the teacher is saying," Thomas told ITV News.
"I just get so confused and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
His mother, Kelly, is worried about him falling behind, particularly when he gets to secondary school.
"Because of the lack of the experience that his teachers have had with deaf children," she said, "he tends to get treated the same as any normal child, but he does have this additional need with his hearing." There are around 35,000 deaf children in England and the majority of them attend mainstream schools.
Some, like New Whittington Primary School in Derbyshire, already have a dedicated Teacher of the Deaf. The school has seven deaf pupils, who receive support from a teaching assistant using sign language during lessons, as well as extra lessons. The head teacher, Emma Tooley, explained why the extra attention is necessary.
"They miss a lot of incidental things that we all take for granted," she says. "There are times when that classroom environment is bustling, too noisy, and there are too many things that distract the children’s hearing that they do have."
Public awareness of deafness has grown in recent weeks because of the actress Rose Ayling-Ellis’s appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, including performing part of a dance in silence.
But campaigners say her success on the dance floor isn’t matched by funding in the classroom.
Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Seeing Rose perform on Strictly is just transformational. So I think we have an opportunity to ensure that in the classroom, deaf children do get that support from Teachers of the Deaf and also from mainstream teachers."
She says the government must use the upcoming review of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) to increase funding for deaf children, to avoid the gap between them and their hearing classmates from getting wider.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We know the last year has proven especially challenging for many children with additional needs, including hearing impairments, which is why we are increasing high needs funding for children with more complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) by over a third, to £8.9 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. "We are also providing £3 billion for education recovery and are investing in our reforms to teacher training and professional development, which schools can use flexibly to support pupils with SEND."