Stopping Stoke from slashing services for deaf children

A combination of holidays and post-holiday work mean I haven’t been blogging for a while. But I think I might break the silence to give an update on the Save Services for Deaf Children campaign in Stoke on Trent. Stoke has been one of the big battlegrounds from the start. 2 years ago, they had 8 Teachers of the Deaf. When deaf children start school again in September, there will just be 4. Despite this, the council still maintain the fiction that their changes will improve matters for deaf children in Stoke.

A few campaign tactics from the start have been bearing fruit recently. NDCS set up a petition early on and which attracted nearly 600 signatures. As a result, NDCS was asked to speak before the whole council last week. By all accounts, this had a big impact. One councillor wrote in to NDCS to say it was a “very moving, reasoned and inspiring speech”. The speech got a round of applause and was covered in the respected local paper too.

Encouragingly, the petition has now been unanimously referred to a scrutiny committee within the council which will look again at the decision. Though I’m not holding my breath, the hope is that the council will finally realise they cannot slash the service for deaf children in Stoke by half without it having a devastating impact on deaf children.

The moral of the blog though? Even doing a simple thing like creating and signing a petition can have a big impact in saving services.

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Councils failing to come clean on cuts to help for deaf children

I’ve never been to Stoke on Trent. I can count on the one hand the number of people I personally know who’ve ever been to Stoke on Trent. Until recently, the most I knew was that they’re into their pottery. And now, thanks to their swinging cuts to help for deaf children, I know more about Stoke on Trent than I ever expected to at the start of the year.

And the big thing I’ve learnt is that council officials making cuts cannot or will not give straight answers to straight questions. I make an example of Stoke on Trent because I worry that other councils are playing the same games with deaf children’s futures – and it cannot go unchallenged.

We knew that even though the number of Teachers of the Deaf had been cut by half, there was a risk of further redundancies. What stunned me is that they would even think about making further cuts so soon after parents launched a campaign to save the service. Once you’ve been busted, you don’t try and get away with it a second time. But no, they went ahead and cut another post.

Or did they? The council deny it. A flat denial, no less. No redundancies, no cuts, no worries. This is technically right. But it’s also wrong. Confused? I think the council wants you to be.

We know from parents of deaf children with inside information that interviews have taken place among the entire team. We know that one Teacher of the Deaf has not been “placed” as a Teacher of the Deaf and has been verbally told as such. So she’s not working with deaf children. But because she hasn’t (yet) been made formally redundant and is still technically a Teacher of the Deaf, the council can say with a straight face there’s been no reductions or cuts. No matter that deaf children in the area will now have one less Teacher of the Deaf supporting them than a week before.

What really offends me is that rather than come clean with local parents of deaf children, explain the situation, work with them, get their views, the council seem intent on making cuts by the back door and providing parents of deaf children with as little information as possible.

It’s outrageous and I’m really glad that local parents of deaf children are challenging the council on this. The council cannot be allowed to get away with it.

Across the rest of England, NDCS has now issued Freedom of Information requests in other areas where councils have not yet come clean about their plans.