Why I *heart* Baroness Walmsley

Baroness WalmsleyYes, Baroness Walmsley is officially my favourite person at the moment. Kylie has been temporarily demoted and will just have to deal with it. The Baroness achieved this great honour after she spoke out about deaf chlidren and NDCS in the House of Lords. Here’s what she had to say:

“I was surprised to discover in the briefing from the National Deaf Children’s Society the underachievement of deaf children. As it rightly points out, deafness is not a learning disability and there is no reason why deaf children should not achieve just as well as their hearing peers. I was staggered that deaf children are 42 per cent less likely than the average to achieve the expected level of attainment in their GCSEs and that that is the only known published statistic on the educational attainment of deaf children. We need to know more. There has apparently been no major government research into the issue since a literature review in 1998.”

The Baroness was speaking in a debate about a draft piece of legislation called the Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill. This Bill would require the Department for Children, Schools and Families to collect and publish more information about children with special educational needs. As the Baroness points out, we badly need more information:

“I hope that the Bill will change that situation. It can improve our understanding of what works, raise expectations, provide a better basis for the evaluation of programmes, give us a better basis for good practice, improve our understanding of the training and continuing professional development needs of professionals and provide a more secure basis for national policy. The potential is a lot wider than just the academic attainment of children, and that is particularly welcome.”

The Bill is a Private Member’s Bill – meaning that it has not been proposed by the Government directly, but by a backbencher MP. Sharon Hodgson MP is behind this particular Bill. Now normally, Private Member’s Bills don’t get very far because MPs are always far too busy debating the proper Government Bills. But this one has bucked the trend and has already been agreed by MPs in the House of Commons. To become law, it now needs the approval of Lords and last Friday (Friday 13th June – eek!) it was debated in the House of Lords. Happily, the Lords in attendence all agreed the Bill was a good idea – and it now passes to the next stage in the House of Lords where it will be looked at in more detail.

Fingers crossed it gets through the House of Lords. It’s a Bill that could make a huge difference for deaf children, and indeed any child with special educational needs.


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