I mused a long while ago in this blog whether academies are bad news for deaf children. The way the Government is going, the answer seems to be a pretty resounding yes.
I’m not anti-academies. If it delivered a good education, I wouldn’t care if deaf children were being educated in McDonalds. What worries me is that the funding system is set up in a way that risks deaf children in academies not getting the help they need.
Charlie Swinbourne’s recent article in the Guardian explains, but in a nutshell, imagine, if you will, a pie. The local authority normally looks after the pie and gives it out according to whoever needs it most. Now allow a group of schools that decide to become independent from councils and become academies, to take a chunk of the pie and split it evenly amongst themselves.
If everyone’s need for the pie was the same, there would be no problem. But when it comes to support for deaf children, the need isn’t the same. Most academies won’t have any deaf children and so will have no need for any pie. This bit of the pie gets wasted. But the academies that do have some deaf children are only getting a tiny piece of the pie. It won’t be enough.
Worse, the more academies taking a piece of the pie, the less that is left for the local authority to give out to deaf children in other schools. At some point, the service will become unsustainable.
Not all local authorities deliver a good service to deaf children. If they did, there wouldn’t be such a wide attainment gap. But without any changes to the funding arrangements, things aren’t going to improve and the pie isn’t going to taste any better.
What really hacks me off is that none of this is new. The National Deaf Children’s Society has been raising these concerns for ages. And the Government promised – in the Houses of Parliament, no less – that they would sort it. A year on, we are still no closer to a solution. And yet the Government is still expanding and accelerating its programme for more academies through it’s new Education Bill.
The message the Government is giving? Deaf children are an afterthought and it’s OK to leave them in limbo. Is this fair?