Georgia Laird: Why is the Department of Education taking so long to wake up to deaf education?

Posted on March 17, 2014

Two weeks ago, the BBC published an article reporting children are “failed by the education system”.

It didn’t take long before the article went viral winning many likes and comments among Deaf user groups online.

Researchers found that more than half the deaf children assessed in mainstream schools had reading difficulties as severe as those with dyslexia.

It’s worth noting though, that 79 children took part, who had a severe to profound hearing loss but communicate orally; no focus was given to deaf BSL users.

If these are the results of the oral-deaf children, what literacy skills do we imagine deaf BSL users to have? This is an area that is being investigated further by the same researchers, findings to be published later this year.

Until then, we can be grateful as the government confirms it will give £1 million to councils in England over the next two years. It’s about time they woke up and put their hand back in their pocket.

A government body itself, Ofsted, found in 2012 that when deaf children progressed well, it was because “services were underpinned by a good understanding of the need for specialist services for deaf children and a strong commitment to maintain them.”

If their own quangos are recognising it, then what’s taken them so long to wake up and fork out?

The Department of Education has been caught quoting:

“This year more deaf children than ever before achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths.”

However, just the year before the results dropped for the first time in five years. There was no mention of that.

If anything there’s a lack of consistency; a reflection on the government’s recent and unjustified spending cuts perhaps.

For now we can only be thankful for the provision of £1 million over the next two years for councils to work together more effectively in supporting deaf children.

As always, further questions can be raised; who is accountable for the spending and how far will £1 million go? How does this funding impact schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Let’s hope that it’s a million well spent by the Department of Education; they need to break down barriers within the classroom, creating a holistic environment that is inclusive to meet the individual needs of the deaf child, not deaf children in general. Of that, only time will tell.

Georgia Laird contracted meningitis at 6 weeks old. As a result she was left with a bilateral hearing loss but was raised in a hearing world. After studying English with Media at university she went on to work on a national newspaper newsdesk. At the age of 22 she started learning British Sign Language as a hobby. Falling in love with the language and Deaf Culture, she left journalism to work with Deaf people and is passionate about breaking down the barriers between the Deaf and hearing community.

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