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Deaf children fall behind at school as staff caseloads soar

Deaf children fall behind at school as staff caseloads soar

  • New analysis highlights the deepening crisis facing deaf children’s education, with rising caseloads and recruitment problems rife
  • Figures from the National Deaf Children’s Society show the average caseload for specialist Teachers of the Deaf has risen 36% in just four years
  • One in ten Teachers of the Deaf have also been cut in the same period
  • Deaf children already fall a grade behind their hearing classmates at GCSE
  • Case study: Bedford parent Andrew Joy has two deaf children. One has already fallen behind at school, leading to him fearing for their education
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society today warned that the system is “under siege” and said “intransigence was no longer an option”
  • The new analysis comes as deaf children’s services experience mounting funding pressures, with local authorities planning £4m of cuts this year

Deaf children risk falling even further behind at school because of ballooning caseloads for specialist teachers, the National Deaf Children’s Society has warned.

New analysis from the charity shows that the caseloads of Teachers of the Deaf have risen by 36% in the last four years.

In 2013, Teachers of the Deaf were supporting 43 deaf children on average, rising to 49 in 2015. The latest survey of local authorities, taken in 2017, shows that each Teacher of the Deaf is now supporting an average of 60 deaf children, with the charity predicting the situation is set to get worse.

The figures come after a recent Guardian report revealed over a third of local councils plan to cut deaf children’s education budgets by a total of £4 million this year. Deaf children already fall a grade behind their hearing classmates at GCSE and the attainment gap is widening.

The National Deaf Children’s Society also says a recruitment crisis is looming in deaf children’s education.

Almost one in seven councils already say they have one Teacher of the Deaf for more than 100 pupils, while 45% report problems in recruiting Teachers of the Deaf or supply cover in the past year. More than half of those that are in post are over 50, meaning they are set to retire within 10-15 years.

The charity is calling on the Government to introduce a bursary fund to avert a recruitment crisis that would leave thousands of deaf children without crucial support.

The £3.5 million scheme would help train more than 400 new Teachers of the Deaf over a three-year period, which the charity says is the minimum number required to stem the tide of those expected to leave their roles.

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“These figures show a profession under threat and an education system under siege.

“Councils face unprecedented levels of demand on their special needs budgets and deaf children’s support is being cut at a rate of knots, but the Government keeps up its repeated claims of record investment in the system. The evidence we see on the ground shows this couldn’t be further than the truth.

“Almost all deaf children are born to hearing parents and they are often the only deaf pupil at their school, so the support Teachers of the Deaf provide to children, parents and teachers is absolutely crucial.

“A bursary is not the silver bullet, but it’s a crucial first step in stemming the tide of departures from the profession. It would provide a new generation of fully-trained teachers for an incredibly rewarding job that supports tens of thousands of deaf children each year.

“Deafness is not a learning disability and until there is no attainment gap between deaf and hearing children, the Government will still be failing in its duty of care. Intransigence is no longer an option. Children, their parents and their teachers need action, and they need it now.”

Case study: Andrew Joy lives in Bedford with his wife and three sons. Two of them (Benjamin, 2, and Sebastian, 5) have bilateral moderate hearing loss, as does he.

Bedford Borough Council’s Hearing Impairment Team are supposed to provide assessment, support and advice for people with a hearing impairment and their carers, but Andrew says they are very short-staffed, with just one part-time Teacher of the Deaf and a support worker. As a result, he feels neither of his younger sons are receiving the support they need.

“Benjamin gets seen once a term by the support worker and does not get any additional support other than regular and supportive visits from audiology. We were told that because my wife used to be a nursery nurse she knew how to support Ben and Seb.”

“Sebastian does not get much support in school. He has been issued with a radio aid, but the school have not been trained on its use.

“We have discovered that Sebastian is behind with his reading and this is a result of him struggling with his phonics. The school should have had guidance on teaching phonics to deaf children which were emailed to them, but the file was too large so they never received it. No one thought to check up.”

Andrew says he is arguing with the school every week to get Sebastian the support he needs. He has also met with the Council, but progress has been slow.

“Having spoken to other families, it seems that everyone is in the same situation in Bedford with little or no support. I have spoken to the Head of Children’s services and they acknowledge they are short-staffed and have been trying to recruit more Teachers of the Deaf. I also feel that this is also down to funding cuts within the services.

Andrew says he never had any support for his own deafness at school and he fears the future education of his sons.

“The early years are so important. We have had three meetings with the school and two with the council. Although things have improved, I have said I will see how the next half term goes and will pull both my boys out of the school if they can’t support Sebastian as I feel he should be.”

Emma Fraser has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf for the last 10 years. She said:

“Teachers of the Deaf play a vital role in the lives of deaf children and their families, from diagnosis right through their whole education.

“They work with deaf children to ensure they can develop language and communication right from the earliest stages of their life, supporting them and their families at every turn. They also provide advice and training for schools to ensure every deaf child gets the right support in class so they can reach their full potential.

“Such a massive increase in Teacher of the Deaf caseloads is incredibly worrying. If a Teacher of the Deaf has 60 children to support, it will become impossible for them to provide the personalised support that deaf children and their families rely on.

“Deaf children already have to overcome obstacles every day. Without enough one-to-one support from Teachers of the Deaf, they face a long, uphill battle just to keep pace with their hearing peers.”

  • In 2013, the average Teacher of the Deaf caseload was 44. It rose to 60 in 2017.
  • There are approximately around 1,050 Teachers of the Deaf across England working in a peripatetic role and/or in resource provisions in schools, of whom 913 are full qualified.
  • In 2013, there 1031.9 fully qualified Teachers of the Deaf, which had fallen to 913.75 by 2017, a drop of 12.9%.
  • 45 local councils plan to cut a total of £4,043,202 from their deaf children’s education budgets
  • Deaf children fall an average of a grade behind their hearing classmates at GCSE. Just 41% of deaf young people achieve two A-levels or equivalent by the age of 19, compared to 65% of other young people.
  • 57% of Teachers of the Deaf are aged over 50.
  • There are more than 45,000 deaf children across England.
  • Around 80% of deaf children attend mainstream schools, where they may be the only deaf child. Teachers of the Deaf play a key role in helping teachers understand how to differentiate the curriculum and provide effective support, as well as directly supporting children one-to-one.
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society has created a paper outlining a bursary scheme to fund the training costs of Teachers of the Deaf in England, which is available on request.
  • The statistics used in this press release are taken from an annual report by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education.

The National Deaf Children’s Society

  • The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families.
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people thrive by providing impartial, practical and emotional support to them and their families, and by challenging governments and society to meet their needs.
  • For more information visit  For further support, parents can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email [email protected], or chat online at

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