When I was younger, a precocious deaf child in a mainstream school, I had some teachers who were great, worked hard to include me in the classroom and also had high expectations of what I could do, always challenging me to work harder. Then there were other teachers who, to put it bluntly, didn’t have a clue. I can remember times where teachers would talk while not facing me, make me listen to radio / TV programmes with no transcript or subtitles, forget to put my microphone on (or leaving it on when they want to the staff room) or telling me off for not doing something, when I hadn’t heard the instruction in the first place. I was a saintly child and obviously never misbehaved. Ahem.
A NDCS survey from last year for the Must do better! campaign found that one in four parents of deaf children didn’t rate the deaf awareness of their child’s teachers which makes me think that not much has changed since I was last at school. With this in mind, we recently sent a paper to the Lamb inquiry into parental confidence in the special educational needs system on this issue – the second paper we’ve sent so far.
The paper specifically calls for more tailored training and support to teachers when a deaf child enters their classroom. This is a slight shift from focusing on initial teacher training. This is obviously important, but in the same way that nobody remembers how to speak French from their French GCSE, it’s unlikely that teachers are going to remember the details of how to include deaf children in the classroom especially when it’s bunched together with training on how to include other children with special educational needs. Given that deafness is a low incidence disability, it may be a few years before the average mainstream teacher encounters a deaf child in the classroom. So a better approach might be to, when a child with special educational needs is themself assessed as needing further support, also assess the teacher for what further training and guidance they need to be able to include the deaf child in their classroom. Kind of like a “teacher’s entitlement” which could be applied to all children with special educational needs.
What do you think of the proposal? What more can be done to improve mainstream teacher training of deaf children?