Education17th December 2014
Deaf Children to Benefit from Increased Investment
Improved SEND school inspection process should drive up standards and hold local authorities to account
With a significant proportion of deaf children covered by the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) procedures in school, today’s announcement by The Department for Education will be of interest to parents, teachers of the deaf and communication support workers.
Announcing a £31.7 million injection to deliver what is being described as ‘Life Changing’ Reforms for children with special educational needs, we hope the Government’s intentions will bring about much needed reform to the oversight and scrutiny of the achievements of deaf children.
Announcing the reforms, Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said, “Our reforms put children and parents right at the heart of the system. We’re on the beginning of a journey to provide simpler, improved and consistent help. Local councils have made a strong start in implementing these life changing reforms, but we want to give them more help to take delivery to the next level. The timescale has always been for them to bring children into the new system over the next three years – this extra money will help them to do that.”
Ofsted has been asked to formally inspect local areas on their effectiveness in fulfilling their new duties, doing this along with the Care Quality Commission and a local authority officer.
Editor’s Comment: “I am delighted to read this announcement. I have been concerned for some time that the inspection process around deaf education has not provided the level of scrutiny that drives high standards, the development and sharing of best practice and the necessary accountability for the educational attainment of deaf children. If Ofsted utilise the expertise of deaf people in this new inspection regime, we have the opportunity to deliver meaningful change for deaf children. We might actually see the back of the life limiting chance that is imposed on a lot of deaf children currently.”
The Government hope that robust and rigorous inspections will ensure that parents and young people receive as much information as possible about what is being offered to their child. The reforms extend provision from birth to 25 years of age. They will also give families greater choice in decisions and ensure needs are properly met. The new system extends rights and protections to young people by introducing a new Education, Health and Care plan.
Commenting on the announcement, Alison Spear, a mum of two Deaf boys from the Yorkshire area, said, "The OFSTED SEN team must have someone who is an 'expert' in Deaf education, who is fair, who has worked with deaf children in the past, so that the inspection report will be valid and worthy. It is imperative that ALL LEAs are inspected and perhaps investigate WHY there is such a wide range of beliefs, philosophies and policies!"
Potentially filling the gaping hole that exists in many areas now, the reforms set out the need for professionals to provide more tailored support to families, giving them the help and assistance they need. The support set out under SEN previously, and SEND today could be argued to have been less than transparent, with too little information provided to parents about what has actually been doing for child.
Taking the opportunity to talk to Deaf parents of Deaf children about this announcement, Emma Trainor told me, "I hope that this investment will help local authorities meet the special educational needs of children. It would be great, as I know deaf children need more communication support worker/interpreters in the classroom and after school clubs activities."
Rob Wilks, commented, "We are delighted that the DoE has taken some action as we are concerned that local authorities, based on personal experience with our Deaf daughter, are not necessarily taking their duties seriously. Ofsted's involvement can only be a good thing."
On these reforms, we are pleased to see that The Department for Education has worked with Mencap to publish easy read guides for young people with SEND and their parents that explain the reforms to the system. Commenting on these guides, Dean Meuleman, who works for Mencap and has a learning difficulty, said, “Easy read is one way of making information easier to understand and use. It uses simple words, short sentences, bullet points and pictures. All these things help people with a learning disability understand important information. It can make a real difference to people’s lives. The changes to the law on SEND will affect parents and young people with a learning disability. They have a right to understand these changes and how they will impact them directly.”
The Easy Read guides are available here: www.gov.uk and www.mencap.org.uk They will help parents of deaf children whose first langauge might not be English, and I hope the Department for Education follows up the work with Mencap to provide a BSL translation of the guides also.
Article by Sarah Lawrence
posted in Community / Education
17th December 2014