Deaf children and Ofsted: inspecting the inspectors

Have been spending a lot of time recently on the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill – which I call the ASCL Bill for short, mainly because I can never hit the ‘c’ bit in Apprenticeships without falling over my words, and sometimes literally just falling over.

It’s the first time as a campaigns officer I’ve got my teeth into looking at detail through a Bill and exploring possible changes and amendments to it – so I’m on an exciting learning curve. One change we’re leading on is the proposal around the education inspection agency Ofsted which touches on one of our objectives for our Close the Gap campaign.

The Bill proposes that schools get a ‘health check’ rather than a full blown inspection if they are ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. So we have tabled an amendment to the draft law that would have the effect of making school health checks conditional on whether the school has been inspected by someone who has good awareness of the needs of children with special educational needs. This is because NDCS we’ve come across several examples in the past of units for deaf children being inspected by people who clearly knew nothing about deafness and did not even know how to communicate with deaf children. Any conclusions they make are clearly not going to be particularly helpful.

Being realistic, and me being cynical, I think it’s unlikely the amendment will be accepted by the Government. But at the very least, there will be a helpful debate on this in Parliament and it will be a powerful means of getting our point on this across to decision makers.

I’ve also attended a few meetings on the ASCL Bill with a range of other charities to see how we can link up. One issue that I hadn’t spotted before – but now have thanks to these meetings – is that the Bill would require you to have a good GCSE in English to do an advanced apprenticeship. There is apparently no exception for children whose disability makes it much less likely for them to get a good GCSE in English. For deaf children whose first language is British Sign Language, it’s a clear, discriminatory barrier to doing an apprenticeship. So it’s likely we’ll be making noises about this too.

The ASCL Bill is making its way through Parliament now – so watch this space.

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