Closing the gap for deaf children

Deaf child
Heather Gray believes more action is needed to ensure deaf children get the same opportunities as everyone else 
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25th April 2014 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Heather Gray, director for Scotland at the National Deaf Children's Society

Heather Gray, director for Scotland at the National Deaf Children's Society

The National Deaf Children’s Society recently commissioned research from the University of Edinburgh which highlights that deaf young people in Scotland are experiencing serious gaps in attainment at school. The research also highlights that deaf young people are lagging behind their hearing peers in terms of positive, sustained post-school destinations. 

The National Deaf Children’s Society is now calling on the Scottish Government to acknowledge this gap and commit to closing it. We must ensure that deaf young people in Scotland have the right support to be able to achieve their full potential like their hearing peers.

Any reduction in additional support for deaf learners is unacceptable in light of the risk of them underachieving academically

When it comes to educating Scotland’s young people, the Scottish Government has a clear vision: to ensure all have the best start in life and are ready to succeed as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. 

But we must ask ourselves, are we achieving this vision for all our young people? Is anyone being left behind? 

In recent years, in Scotland, there has been welcome action taken to support young learners with additional support needs. While we know that in some parts of Scotland deaf young people move on successfully to college, university, work or apprenticeships, this new research highlights that these transitions are not consistent or positive for all deaf young people. It is time to take action. We need to learn from the good practice that exists and ensure consistently good outcomes for our deaf young people.

There are around 3,500 deaf young people in Scotland and many face a persistent attainment gap. Almost 10% leave school with no qualifications and almost 65% fail to gain the necessary qualifications to enter higher education. They continue to be significantly under-represented at university, work and in training programmes.   

At the same time, a recent national survey of local authorities found that numbers of teachers of the deaf have decreased by about 15% in Scotland over two years. While more analysis is required to understand the local contexts around this figure, any reduction in additional support for deaf learners is unacceptable in light of the risk of them underachieving academically. 

The National Deaf Children’s Society is calling on the Scottish Government to recognise the attainment gap for deaf learners and commit to closing it. This message serves to remind us that while deaf learners make up a small incidence group, meeting their unique needs is crucial to delivering the objectives under Getting It Right for Every Child and the Curriculum for Excellence and ensuring every young person has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. 

As part of this action to close the gap, we are at a timely juncture at which to review education provision for deaf children and ensure our current systems are achieving the best possible outcomes for this group. There is a need to address the serious challenges that often exist in delivering education services for deaf children. 

We are of course in no way starting from scratch. We have seen great examples of best practice which ensure that deaf young people get the right support to achieve their potential. The newly published Scottish Government See Hear Sensory Impairment Strategy gives us a supportive strategic framework to support transitions. 

However there is still more work to be done in order to close the gap for deaf young people. With strong leadership from the Scottish Government and effective partnership working across all sectors, we can shift policy into practice across Scotland and improve the life chances of deaf young people.

The National Deaf Children’s Society’s Close the Gap report will be available online from 30 April.