Sunday, October 18, 2009

Charity wants action to help close attainment gap for deaf children

Source Link - Charity wants action to help close attainment gap for deaf children

THERE is a “shocking attainment gap” between deaf children in Wales and their hearing counterparts, the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) Cymru warns today.

Assembly Government figures – published today for the first time – show a gap between deaf and hearing children at every key stage, with deaf children 30% less likely to achieve five GCSEs at grades A*-C than their hearing peers.

NDCS Cymru has called on the Assembly Government and local authorities to close the gap, citing poor acoustics in schools, a postcode lottery in service provision and a lack of general deaf awareness as reasons.

The Assembly Government said it was committing to providing quality education for deaf children.

Jayne Dulson, director of NDCS Cymru, said: “Deafness is not a learning disability, but there are many barriers which are preventing deaf children from achieving their full potential.

“NDCS Cymru recognises the good work that teachers and other professionals are doing to support deaf children. However, narrowing the attainment gap requires more investment in education, health and support services for deaf children and their families.

“We are therefore calling on the Welsh Assembly Government and local authorities to take action to close this gap.”

Figures from 2008 showed an attainment gap between deaf and hearing children at every level – 21% at Key Stage 1, 25% at Key Stage 2, 41% ar Key Stage 3 and 27% in core GCSE subjects.

NDCS Cymru has highlighted several areas of concern. Many new school buildings have been designed with aesthetically-pleasing atriums with high roofs, which make it difficult for the hard of hearing.

In addition, there are large differences in standards between Wales’ 22 local authorities, and many teachers have a lack of general awareness of issues such as always facing the class, rather than the blackboard, ensuring deaf children sit at the front of the classroom and checking that radio aids are working.

“All – including dinner ladies and sports teachers – need to be made aware of deaf issues,” said Ms Dulson. “That should further extend to making pupils deaf-aware.

“As far as deaf awareness is concerned, I think it’s a mindset. It could be included in the education of new staff, it could be included in inset days, certainly if a new deaf child is coming into the school.”

It is the first time the figures have been released because, previously, deaf children were put together with children with sight problems when collating them.

Ms Dulson said she felt there was sympathy for the issues within the Assembly Government.

She said: “I think it’s a balancing act for them. We’re one of many disabilities which need investment, but I think there’s a high level of understanding of the needs.

“These figures are helping us to support the argument. The Assembly Government has said it needed evidence when actually they have had the evidence themselves.

“I don’t know whether they sat on that evidence, but it’s certainly taken a long time to achieve it.

“We won’t go away. We’re going to fight this.”

A spokeswoman for the Assembly said: “We are committed to ensuring that the needs of all children and young people in Wales with a hearing impairment are provided with the quality educational provision which they are entitled to.

“Although it is encouraging to see improvements in the attainment of hearing impaired pupils from 2005 to 2008, we do however recognise that there is more work to be done.

“This is why, as part of the our ongoing reform of Additional Learning Needs (ALN), officials are working with NDCS Cymru and other voluntary organisations to develop an ALN Quality Assurance framework in Wales.

“A pilot project is currently underway to look specifically at quality assurance, engaging with relevant agencies and voluntary sector organisations.

“The pilot aims to develop a comprehensive framework for the monitoring and evaluation of educational provision and outcomes for children and young people with ALN.

“We are also working closely with partners to further improve data quality and recently met with local authority data managers and heads of inclusion to share good practice and build expertise and links throughout Wales.”