My “Campaigning for Deaf Children” Christmas wish list

As a campaigner, what would I like Santa Claus to give deaf children for Christmas?

1) Greater focus on making sure deaf children start primary school on a level playing field with other children. The newborn screening programme is now over 5 years in and every child born deaf should be being diagnosed within the first few weeks of life. Late diagnosis was a major barrier, now removed. And deafness isn’t a learning disability. Yet government figures suggest little change in the early years attainment gap. So what’s going on? And what needs to change to close this gap? In my view, there’s lots of theories and lots of best practice suggestions but no concrete answers or explanation of why the gap isn’t closing. I’d like Santa to bring us closer to some solutions.

2) Local authorities stop picking on deaf children’s services for cuts. It’s a false economy; denying deaf children support the help they need now means a generation of deaf adults failing to achieve their potential and make a full contribution. It also means parents of deaf children will push for statements for special educational needs, and the legal entitlements this brings. NDCS’s Save Services for Deaf Children campaign has information on campaigning to protect services. There’s lots of ways councils can make savings without impacting on services: such as working with neighbouring council’s to share and pool resources. I’d like Santa to knock heads together in council offices. Or at least make sure they get no presents this year.

3) And something for the stocking. The BBC, ITV and other programme makers stop using live subtitles for pre-recorded programmes. Charlie Swinbourne’s blog explains the fury caused when the final of the Young Apprentice had subtitles out of sync with what was being said. “Technical problems” are often cited. More likely, the programme editors were too busy faffing about with last minute changes that there wasn’t enough time to prepare subtitles. This denial of access is just not on. I’d like Santa to say to whoever is responsible for these kind of “technical problems”: you’re fired.

It’s a pretty modest list of requests, I think. What else do you think we should ask Santa for?

Otherwise, all that remains is to wish everyone who reads my blog a very happy Christmas and prosperous 2012. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the 2011 blogs and see you next year.


GCSEs attainment gap for deaf children closes!

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With the new ice age upon London, I came across some good news the other day that warmed the cockles of my heart.

After years of stagnation, the attainment gap between deaf children and other children is finally beginning to close with provisional government figures showing deaf children making a big leap in the last year. Last year, 29% of deaf children achieved the government’s benchmark for GCSE success. This year, it’s 36%, compared to 66% of children with no special educational needs.

The attainment gap is still pretty wide and there are still far too many deaf children under achieving. But the new figures do at least hold out the promise that the National Deaf Children’s Society’s campaign work to close the gap has begun to have an impact. By shining a spotlight on how many deaf children under achieve and banging on about the injustice of it, I hope the campaign has led to higher expectations for deaf children and better results. Not that I want to take all the credit for these figures…

Of course, all of this could be placed at risk if local authorities make massive cuts to their services for deaf children. NDCS is continuing to call on decision-makers to protect funding for these vital services. Members of the public can show their support by contacting their local councillors about this issue.

But for now, a nice piece of news to enter the Christmas holidays with.

Data on how deaf children are doing at school – now out

Last week, while I was sunning myself on holiday, NDCS published the data given to us by the Department for Children, Schools and Families on how deaf children do in their GCSEs in England in 2008. They don’t make for pleasant reading:

Only 28% of deaf children got five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and Maths) compared to 48% of all children. Put in another way, nearly three quarters of deaf children leave secondary school having failed to hit the Government’s expected benchmark of success.

27% of deaf children hit the same benchmark in 2007, so deaf children are doing slightly better. However, all children are doing better too. As a result, the attainment gap between deaf children and all children has widened between 2007 and 2008. When we do the number crunching, we see that in 2008, deaf children were 42% less likely to as well in their GCSEs than all children.

Given that deafness is not a learning disability, 42% is a pretty big attainment gap. We’ll be doing some media work to highlight this gap and to support our ongoing campaign to close the gap.

We also have data for each of the regions in England. London fares as the region where deaf children are least likely to do as well as all children. Here, a deaf children is 50% less likely to hit the Government’s expected benchmark for success than all children.

This is the first time much of the data has been made available. Some is already hidden away on DCSF’s website in a different format – but DCSF have not published regional data, information on the attainment gaps and details of three year averages. They’ve passed this information to us because we asked for it, and have been happy for us to go ahead and publish it for them.

DCSF’s website also contains information about how other groups of children get on. I haven’t checked for this year but in the past, the gap in achievement between deaf children and all children was greater than that between a) boys and girls and b) white boys and black Caribbean boys. The achievements of all children is obviously important – but it is striking how much attention has been placed on the latter two attainment gaps.

What do you think about the gaps in attainment? Are you surprised that it’s not narrowing? And what does the Government need to do to start closing the gap?