Eight in ten teachers back calls for deaf awareness training

ITV News reporter Katharine Walker has been exploring the challenges faced by deaf children in mainstream education

Eight in ten teachers believe deaf awareness training should be compulsory, figures shared exclusively with ITV News have revealed.

Deaf children in England achieve an entire GCSE grade lower on average than their hearing peers.

New research from the National Deaf Children's Society shows that 58% of teachers think that deaf children will continue to underachieve, unless there are changes to the education system.

The findings also reveal that 22% of new teachers still don't get the information they need to teach deaf children effectively, and 82% believe a module on deaf awareness should be included in Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

The figures shine a light on concerns around a lack of support for deaf children in the key early development years and beyond.   

  • Research shows that deaf children can only lip read about 30% of information

There are currently around 33,000 deaf children in schools across England, with the vast majority (84%) in mainstream schools. But without more deaf awareness training, teachers and parents are concerned that they will fall behind.

Michelle Atkinson decided to send her deaf daughter to a school in Derby with deaf awareness training, to make sure she could reach her full potential.

She said: "Research shows that deaf children can only lip read about 30% of the information. That means they're missing quite a lot. They also get listening fatigue from trying to lip read all day.

"It's really hard for a deaf child to make it through the day just by lip-reading. So, it's important that teachers have deaf awareness and understand these problems."

Karen Ratcliff, headteacher at Reigate Park Primary Academy, said: “Deaf awareness training is vital in schools, particularly for us. It enables the children to thrive and to fully access the curriculum."

Sally Harrison, Special Educational Needs Coordinator, added: "The children need certain equipment and certain provision putting in place. So if teachers are aware of that and have been taught about that, it's really beneficial to the children."

Deaf awareness training has also had a positive impact on hearing children and their parents. Zoe Elliot's son learns basic sign language at Reigate Park Primary Academy. She said: "It makes the children more empathetic and patient and it ensures that nobody is left out".

  • "Deafness is not a learning disability" - Martin Thacker, Deputy Director for National Deaf Children’s Society

The government in England is currently reviewing how disabled children are supported in schools as part of its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Review.  

The National Deaf Children’s Society is urging the government to use this opportunity to develop a plan to provide effective, long-term specialist support.

The charity wants to see deaf awareness be part of initial and ongoing training for teachers and Special Educational Needs Coordinators.

Martin Thacker, Deputy Director for the National Deaf Children’s Society said: "Over the last few years the National Deaf Children’s Society has tracked a widening gap in attainment  between deaf children and their hearing classmates.

"Now deafness is not a learning disability. So there’s no reason why deaf children shouldn’t do as well as their hearing classmates, or even better, given the right support to help them reach their full potential."

In a statement, the Department for Education said: “All children and young people, including those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, should receive the support they need to succeed in their education.

“There is a legal requirement for qualified teachers to hold relevant mandatory qualifications when teaching classes of pupils who have a sensory impairment.

Our special educational needs and disability (SEND) and alternative provision green paper proposals will build on these existing requirements, aiming to change the culture and practice in mainstream education to be more inclusive, with earlier intervention, improved targeted support and better workforce training.”