Headlines: October 22nd, 2012

Deaf children’s entitlement to communicate and be communicated with is fundamental to their development and progress. But many agencies need to review their services and improve the quality of communication.

A survey by Ofsted found effective joint working across agencies supporting deaf children but the quality assurance and evaluation of impact of services was not well developed. Overall, the auditing and reporting of the quality of multi-agency services were underdeveloped.

There are more than 34,000 deaf children in England and around 19% have some form of additional special educational need. Eighty-one per cent of school-aged children are in mainstream education and while the educational attainment of deaf children is improving year on year, it continues to lag well behind that of their hearing peers.

Deafness itself is not a barrier to educational achievement. In the cases looked at there were examples of effective working across local authority boundaries to enable children to attend the right school for them. When children were diagnosed early, placed in the right school, with parent or carer involvement and with the right support, deaf children can achieve just as well as their hearing peers.

The Ofsted report,‘Communication is the key’ examines good practice in services supporting deaf children in three local authorities. Inspectors found early diagnosis and timely access to support to be crucial. For example, children who were diagnosed as deaf shortly after birth benefited from the newborn hearing screening programme. In each of the authorities visited effective communication was well established between health and specialist education support services which ensured that timely support was provided to families following diagnosis.

The allocation of support from ‘teachers of the deaf’ was important to helping parents come to terms with the fact their child was deaf and how they could best help them. These teachers played a pivotal role in providing and coordinating support and promoting deaf awareness among school staff working with deaf children, who did not all have expertise in this area.

The report stressed the need for deaf awareness training with all the staff working with the child and for specialist staff and social workers for deaf children to have appropriate professional training which keeps their knowledge and skills up to date.