Jacob Atkinson: Join my campaign and petition against educational support cuts affecting young deaf people

Posted on September 8, 2017

To sign Jacob’s petition go to: https://www.greaterrecognitionfordeafyoungpeople.co.uk/

My name is Jacob Atkinson. I’m eighteen years old and I live in Cramlington, Northumberland. I was born three months premature and diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss.

I’ve had bilateral hearing aids since I was 18 months old. When I was about two years old, I was also diagnosed with mild spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which makes my gait uneven and my joints stiff.

From the outset, my family and I worked with a Teacher of the Deaf who regularly visited us at home and monitored my hearing and communication development.

When I was three years old, I started going to playgroup where I had one to one support to help me to interact with other children and help with my mobility problems. I had a Statement of Special Educational Needs from this point.

I attended a local mainstream primary school where I had one to one support, and regular visits from my Teacher of the Deaf. Early on in primary school, I was given a radio aid.

The changes in this technology has, over the years, been amazing – when I first started school, my radio aid was connected to my hearing aids with wires leading from the ‘shoes’ and was fed through my clothes. The receiver was in a pouch around my waist, or clipped onto the back of my trousers. The digital wireless systems we have now are a huge improvement!

I continued at a local mainstream secondary school in 2011. My Statement of Special Educational Needs was continued, but my support was gradually reduced throughout secondary school. In 2015, at the end of Year 11, my Statement was withdrawn as I was making excellent progress.

Nevertheless, some of the problems that I came up against in school include poor acoustics in parts of the buildings, which affected my radio aid and made it difficult for me to hear during lessons and particularly assemblies. Some teachers were better than others at using my radio aid equipment, with some regularly forgetting to mute the FM when talking to other pupils in the class during group work.

I’ve had occasional problems with equipment, usually my radio aid, but I’ve always had brilliant support from my Teacher of Deaf when I’ve been unable to sort my equipment myself; they have always come into school at short notice to sort any problems.

I was given access arrangements for all my exams, which meant I got 25% extra time and could use a laptop. I passed all my GCSE exams and was happy with my results. I decided to stay on at sixth form and complete A levels in History, Literature and Philosophy and Ethics. I achieved highly in my A level exams and I am going to Newcastle University to study History.

However, I know that not every deaf child is as lucky as me in achieving what they want to. In 2015, a study by the National Deaf Children’s Society showed that the attainment gap between special educational needs young people and those without is widening.

Almost two-thirds (58.9%) of deaf children are failing to achieve the Government’s expected benchmark of five GCSEs at grade A*–C (including English and Maths), compared to just 35.8% of other children with no identified special educational need.

Therefore, I’ve personally set up a campaign and petition called Greater Recognition for Deaf Young People. I aim to raise awareness of Special Educational Needs students and to improve the attainability of deaf young people throughout the United Kingdom.

I am passionate about seeing the Government improve the chances of Special Educational Needs young people. After consistent applications and email communications to the Government and to the Official Opposition over the past year, nothing has been done by either party and I’ve received nothing but empty platitudes.

Under the current Conservative Government, deaf young people have been failed appallingly by the Government’s decision to decrease funding to local authorities, meaning that local authorities have been forced to cut the funding which they use to supply students and schools with crucial equipment such as FM radio aids, and give deaf-awareness training to teachers, including providing Teacher of the Deaf support.

My aims for the campaign are as follows:

  1. To generate debate on the issue in Parliament and force the Government to come to terms with its record and the damaging impact that the Government’s austerity measures has had on SEND young people’s success
  2. To ensure that, in future general elections, all parties have a clear commitment to working with organisations such as the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) to improve the attainability of deaf young people across the United Kingdom
  3. Local authorities must provide the funding to schools that is urgently needed to ensure the attainability of SEND young people

To sign the petition and to find out more about the campaign, go to https://www.greaterrecognitionfordeafyoungpeople.co.uk/

Jacob is eighteen years old and lives in Cramlington, England. He says “I recently completed my A levels with grades A*–C and I am going to be studying History at Newcastle University from 25 September 2017. I have severe deafness in both ears and wear Phonak hearing aids in both ears. I also have mild spastic diaplegia cerebral palsy that affects the muscles in my legs and my walking gait. I have a positive attitude towards my disabilities; the important thing to remember is that your disabilities do not define who you are!”

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