Dear Claire Coutinho MP,
We are Shikha and Juliet, two parents of deaf children, and we are writing to ask you to take urgent steps to increase numbers of Teachers of the Deaf and other specialist staff as part of the review of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system.
Shikha and Ayaan
Ayaan is four years old and is profoundly deaf. Like 90% of parents of deaf children, my husband and I had no previous experience of deafness. The support that we received from our local Teachers of the Deaf after Ayaan’s initial diagnosis was invaluable. Our Teachers of the Deaf visited us every week. They supported us emotionally, gave us advice and information about deafness and helped encourage Ayaan’s language and communication through play.
When Ayaan was 18 months old, we moved to a different local authority and there was a big change in the support that we received. I realised then that there’s a real postcode lottery of support for deaf children and their families in England. This is very unfair – every deaf child should have access to the best possible support, no matter where they live in England. Ayaan is now thriving at a specialist school for deaf children, where he is supported by Teachers of the Deaf every day.
Juliet and Bess
Bess is nine and is profoundly deaf. The support from Teachers of the Deaf has been vital for our family and always reassuring. After Bess’s diagnosis, they supported and signposted us to other services. They were excellent in helping Bess transition from nursery to primary school. Their ability to train teachers (as well as the whole school and peers too) has been so important for her deaf identity, confidence and her social skills.
They’ve advised the school on best practice for acoustics, trained the teachers on deaf awareness and how to use technology and have helped Bess feel included and develop friendships with her peers. All of Bess’s teachers have been open to help from the Teachers of the Deaf and have been so grateful for it. It would have been extremely difficult for our family to cope without their support.
Why you must invest in Teachers of the Deaf
The practical help and support that Ayaan, Bess and our families have received from Teachers of the Deaf since they were born has made all the difference.
This makes it so concerning that research from the National Deaf Children’s Society shows a decline of 19% in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf in England since 2011.
We also know that the National Deaf Children’s Society hears many stories from deaf young people about a lack of deaf awareness at school or college. Sadly, this is backed up by teachers themselves, with just 5% of teachers believing that deaf children will achieve their potential without changes to the system.
We agree with the National Deaf Children’s Society that your plans to reform SEND services should include:
- action to recruit and train more Teachers of the Deaf, such as a bursary scheme
- a workforce strategy to increase the number of specialist SEND professionals
- deaf awareness training for all teachers and SENCOs.
As we’re sure you agree, investing in deaf children right from the start will give them the opportunity to thrive in education, move into aspiring careers and build positive futures. We need to make sure they are given this chance.
We would be keen to meet with you to discuss our experiences further around what works for deaf children and their families.
Shikha Sharma – and Ayaan (4)
Juliet Viney – and Bess (9)