New data about deaf children published

Image courtesy of http://images.clipartof.com

A few weeks back, the Department for Children, Schools and Families published a report with lots of data about children with special educational needs. For a geek like me, it was a dream come true. Pages and pages of spreadsheets and percentages and important footnotes to pore over. Sigh…

Anyhow, the report had its origins in the Special Educational Needs (Information) Act 2008. Sharon Hodgson MP pushed hard for this and NDCS was among a group of charities lobbying hard for it. The Act aims to shine a spotlight on special educational needs in the hope of galvanising Government to take action to improve outcomes. The report brings together lots of information for the first time on children who have been formally recognised as having a special educational need (i.e those who have a formal statement of need or who have been placed at ‘school action plus’ and are getting extra help that way). So it doesn’t include information on all deaf children, and needs to be used with caution, etc. but what information it does have makes for fascinating reading (assuming you’re a geek like me). And also depressing, when you see the full extent of the poorer outcomes that deaf children experience.

A few of the interesting statistics that I’ve picked up so far include…

* In 2009, there were 14,770 deaf children formally identified as needing support. 500 more than last year.

* There are more boys recorded as having a hearing impairment: 7670 boys to 7100 girls.

* More analysis needed but it appears that children from an Asian background are more likely to have a hearing impairment. Of all Asian children with a statement, 7.8% were hearing impaired, compared to 2.5% for white children with a statement.

* The number of deaf children recorded drops dramatically at the age of 16. At age 15, there are 570 children with a hearing impairment with statements, dropping to 240 at age 16. We’re left wondering what happens to these children; whether they leave school, continue in further education with support or cease to receive any support at all.

* 4.9% of deaf children recorded are likely were defined as persistent absentees in 2007-08, compared to 2.4% of children with no identified need. Deaf girls are more likely to be defined as persistent absentees than deaf boys.

And that’s just for starters. Much of the data raises more questions than it answers. But this is not necessarily a bad thing before – the lack of any data before meant that we didn’t know what questions we needed to be asking.

I’m off on holiday next week – don’t worry, I won’t be taking the spreadsheets with me for holiday reading – but am looking forward to looking through the data in more detail and getting a full report on NDCS’s website. In the meantime, what do you think of the data so far? Anything surprising or particularly shocking in there? Anything missing you really want to know?

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NDCS campaigns at Labour conference 2009: day 3

Louis has continued today in his determination to make campaigns look easy, lobbying a further three MPs today on acoustics in schools. The MPs were:

Virendra Sharma
Virendra Sharma

Sharon Hodgson
Sharon Hodgson
Iain Wright
Iain Wright

Virendra Sharma: Louis’s local MP in London who affectionately described Louis as an “Ealing boy”. Virendra seemed particularly shocked about what we had to say on acoustics in schools – the reaction we were looking for – and has promised to raise this issue with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Sharon Hodgson: A strong supporter of NDCS in the past and an even stronger advocate for children with special educational needs, Sharon asked Louis lots of questions about his deafness and his experiences. Louis and Sharon also had a detailed discussion about the merits of Twitter and Facebook!

Iain Wright: Another DCSF Minister, this time responsible for policy for children aged 14 to 19. Iain is familiar with our acoustics campaign having previously worked at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Again, Iain asked lots of question and also took the time to listen to our simulation of poor acoustics in the classroom. He seemed shocked by how difficult it was to make out what the teacher was saying.

With all MPs, we’ve been preparing local press releases to send out in the hope of getting some local media coverage highlighting our concerns on acoustics. Despite being camera shy, Louis has gamely posed for lots of photos with MPs!

As Louis has been a superstar, we took some time out from the conference to treat him to a game of crazy golf on the seaside in Brighton. For someone who has never played before, he managed to beat my interpreter and get a hole in one. Worringly, there seems to be no end to his talents…

Louis has now headed off back home, but we have another day of lobbying to do at the Labour party conferences tomorrow, so pop back tomorrow for another daily update.

Celebrating new legislation on Special Educational Needs

I went to a reception at the Department for Children, Schools and Families last week for a special reception. I knew it was going to be my kind of party when I saw they were serving Pringles. As a child, I was reknowned all around Leicestershire for my ability to eat a whole tub of Pringles in one go.

Anyhow, the purpose of the reception was to celebrate the passing of the Special Educational Needs (Information) Act. This is the piece of legislation, which I’ve blogged about a few times before, that will require the Government to collect more information about children with special educational needs do at school and was spearheaded by Sharon Hodgson MP. For deaf children, it’s an important development. If we don’t measure how deaf children are doing, how can we improve it? As the legislation was making its way through Parliament, we worked hard to lobby MPs to support the Bill.

Attending were a range of charities who had supported and lobbied for the Bill, Sharon Hodgson herself, Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and the new Minister for SEN – Sarah McCarthy Fry.

Sarah was still only around 3 days into the job so we were not expecting her to talk at length about the Act and what will happen in practice going forward – but she did say a few encouraging words about how there was no reason why disabled children should not be doing better. Which is exactly the point at the heart of our Close the Gap campaign. Sharon Hodgson also took the opportunity to thank NDCS and all other charities that had supported the Bill – which was very nice of her.

It was a good opportunity to meet everyone and find out what’s happening next on a range of things. I did unfortunately get slightly starstruck when meeting Ed Balls. And I was even more lost for words when Sharon Hodgson gave me a peck on the cheek as I was leaving. Clearly, I’m not as cool as I thought…

Going forward though, we’ll be keeping an eye out on the Act and making sure it is used to produce lots of useful data about deaf children. And, as for me, I’m going to be trying to wean myself off my addiction to Pringles all over again.

School’s out!

Parliament broke for summer yesterday (or “rose for recess” as Parliamentary wonks like to put it) and they don’t come back until October. On the one hand, I’m slightly jealous. On the other, I’m slightly relieved. I feel a bit like a teacher who’s spent the last few months watching over a bunch of manic hyperactive children, monitoring closely what they’re up to and what they’re saying and keeping a constant eye out for mischief. I can now breath a sigh of relief that they’ve all gone home for the summer and have a cup of tea.

In their rush to get things done before the summer, there’s been a rush of activity in the corridors of power. Here’s are three examples of things that have been going on in Parliament recently that impact on deaf children:

1) The Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill , which I talked about in an earlier blog, is now set to become law. It quickly passed through the remaining hurdles left in the House of Lords and the Queen has graciously agreed to approve the Bill by giving it her ‘royal assent’. As this is a private member’s bill, put forward by Sharon Hodgson MP, which don’t normally succeed, this is really good news. In requiring the Department to collect and publish more information about children with special educational needs, the Bill will hopefully be a powerful catalyst for change and have a positive impact for deaf children. Top marks for Sharon!

2) John Bercow issued a report about services for children with speech, language and communication needs. Many children who are deaf, for example, may need speech and langauge therapy and/or communication support so this report was a good opportunity to make sure their needs are taken into account. It follows a call for evidence last year where we encouraged parents of deaf children to input thieir views. Nearly 10% of the final responses came from parents or professionals working with deaf children. My esteemed colleague, Angela Deckett, has talked about this on her excellent blog for professionals.

3) Lord Morris asked a parliamentary question (PQ) in the House of Lords about our Big Plans event that we held a while back. A PQ is an opportunity for MPs or Lords to get the Government’s official ‘position’ on something. It also provides us with a quote that we can throw back in the Government’s face when we need to hold them to account on something. Sometimes though, answers can be horribly vague as to border on meaningless. I should know – in my previous job, it was my responsibility to occasionally draft answers to PQs.

Anyhow, below is the PQ and the answer!

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government: What consideration they have given to the key findings of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s recent survey of the needs and views of deaf children and young people as they affect government departments; and what action they will be taking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): The National Deaf Children’s Society’s report Changing Your World Youth Consultation was launched on 10 June 2008. This said that that young people want to see more mainstreaming of activities for deaf children and young people. The Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds which we introduced in 2006 give young people a direct say over activities and facilities in their area. It is a universal programme with a focus on reaching disadvantaged young people including those with disabilities. Young people can participate in three ways: as an applicant for funding: as a grant giver; and as a beneficiary of the activity or facility provided through the programme.

Young people also want more information and advice made available to them. The National Core Offer was launched as part of Aiming High for Disabled Children on 15 May 2008. The National Core Offer is a statement of the standards which families with disabled children can expect across the country from local services. It is concerned mainly with early years, education, youth, social care and health services, but is also relevant for those delivering housing, leisure and transport services.

The core offer will ensure that parents of disabled children are involved in determining provision; have a single assessment of need where possible; are clear what they are entitled to and how to access the service; give disabled children and young people the option of being fully involved in the development of local services and designing their package of care; and are not subject to multiple assessments before services are provided.

Apart from the fact that it got the name of our report wrong and seemed confused about what our event was about, it was useful for us as the Government confirmed that deaf children should be benefitting from two important Government initiatives – the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Core Offer. So if we suspect this isn’t happening anywhere in the country, we can quote the Government’s reply on this to remind them!

So there you have three examples of Parliamentarians making mischief – creating new laws, publishing reports and asking pertinent questions. No more mischief-making until the autumn though (in theory). I will probably miss them in a few weeks…