New education legislation hits Parliament – what does it mean for deaf children?

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill was introduced to Parliament yesterday in what the wonks call it’s ‘First Reading’. It used to be called the Children, Skills and Learning Bill but clearly someone decided that it wasn’t catchy enough and combined it with another draft Bill on apprenticeships. I will henceforth call the new Bill the ASCL Bill – mainly because apprenticeships is one of those words I haven’t had enough speech therapy to be able to pronounce properly.

Anyhow, the contents of the Bill haven’t yet been published though we have a rough idea what will be in it. The main focus will be on dealing with the impact of the raising of the school leaving age to 18 in the future. One major point we’ll be banging on about is that children who are deaf or who have special educational needs are disproportionately represented in children who currently leave school at 16. So if these kids are going to be forced to stick around, the system needs to be equipped to offer a high quality education.

And some of the key areas we’ll be looking at include:

* There’s a proposal that if schools are ranked as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, they can be inspected less frequently. We want to make sure that no school can be ranked good or excellent unless they have excellent provision for pupils for children with special educational needs – and for this to be assessed by an inspector with expert knowledge in provision for children with such needs.

* Local authorities will now be responsible for school transport for pupils older than 16. NDCS’s Family Officers report a wide range of problems when it comes to deaf children and school transport so we’ll be seeking to address this through the Bill.

* The Bill is likely to introduce a right to request training for everyone. We want this to go further by introducing a new right to training for teachers if a child with special educational needs enters their classroom.

And there’s a whole range of other points – it will be an important Bill for NDCS this year. We’ll be working closely with other charities in the sector – and may be calling on our members to get involved. So, as always, watch this space and let us know if you have any thoughts or comments.


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