Time to listen

Why do children with hearing loss, but no other impediment to their learning, fare so much worse than children of a similar ability but with normal hearing patterns? You could ask the same question of children with other disabilities. Later this month the DfE should publish outcome figures for the 2015 GCSE results for these pupils.

Last year, the National Deaf Children’s Society a key campaigner in the field of education for children with hearing impairment, published a chilling report on the state of their education http://www.ndcs.org.uk/for_the_media/press_releases/deaf_children_slip.html only 36% of these children achieved the %A-Cs at GCSE compared with more than 60% of their hearing classmates. Even more concerning was the decline in specialist teachers of hearing impaired children.

It is this latter point that concerns me at this time. Does our fractured governance system which fails to rate professional development of teachers properly now allow for a system to ensure the training of sufficient teachers of hearing impaired pupils or indeed or other pupils that need specialist training. Is there any obligation on multi-academy trusts or single converter academies to ever consider this type of issue? Local authorities certainly won’t these days and, I guess, it hasn’t featured on the agenda of many of the School Forums responsible for setting policy on funding distribution across school in an area. Funding is ever more weighted towards pupils and their immediate needs and rarely takes into account the longer-term strategic needs of the school system.

One implication of more pupils overall is that the number with impaired hearing is also likely to rise in proportion. This means that more teachers should be trained. How will this happen? Could such teachers be incorporated into the National Teaching Service or will we expect enthusiastic teachers to take out one of the new career loans for higher degrees on top of their existing student debt to provide out cadre of qualified teachers of hearing impaired pupils in the future, let alone the leaders in the special schools where some of these children are located. Who is going to employ the advisers to help classroom teachers with a child with mild hearing loss in their class to perform to the best of their ability and help close the performance gap?

These pupils and their compatriots with other special needs deserve a high quality schooling system not to be pushed to the margins of policy-making. I am sure that they aren’t seen as a nuisance, but perhaps they aren’t seen enough or even at all by those that consider these issues. There are only around 20,000 pupils with recognised hearing impairment in our school system, but each and every one deserves the best possible education. As, indeed, do all other pupils with special needs.




3 thoughts on “Time to listen

  1. There is no reason for a deaf student to attain lower grades, but there are issues with partially deaf students attending mainstream education in classes with unqualified teachers or teachers who lack training in teaching children with hearing impairments.

    There is also a distinct difference between a deaf student who uses spoken and heard English to communicate and a deaf student who uses BSL to communicate. Who is responsible for the CPD needed to ensure all teachers can ensure these deaf students make similar progress and attainments to their peers? Or indeed, as you say John, that enough specialist teachers of deaf students are brought to the market? If not the SofS, then who? It costs an extra year of HEI training for such teachers who are not reimbursed for that training.

    I concur with your sentiments that the marketisation of education has led to a vacuum of responsibility for the progress and well-being of such students. Looked after children have a virtual headteacher and virtual teachers whose role is to oversee the progress of such students. Perhaps we need a similar overarching accountability structure of people who can work with teacher training providers, LA schools, academy chains & academies and free schools.

    • James,

      Thank you for your helpful and thoughtful reply to my post. I would like to see SEN feature significantly in the Chief Inspector’s report for 2016 and perhaps the Select committee could follow up their general inquiry into teacher supply with a more detailed look at this area of teacher supply and preparation in a market economy.


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