MP highlights concerns about education services for deaf children in Plymouth

Opening an adjournment debate into the educational achievement of deaf students in Britain last night, Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, highlighted some of the many challenges faced by those with hearing  difficulties, and urged Ministers to look into a local shortage in specialist teachers. Ms Seabeck received praise from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Edward Timpson MP, for her work locally supporting parents and carers of children with disability, through parent support groups like

CHSWG (Children’s Hearing Support Group).

Deafness affects over 45,000 children across the UK, the majority of whom are born to hearing parents with no background in deafness. Over three quarters of these children attend mainstream schools, with little specialist provision, where they are often the only deaf child in attendance. According to the Government, 73% of deaf children achieve 5 GCSEs (including English and Maths) at grades A* to C. This is compared to 89% of children with no identified special educational need. 

Alison Seabeck MP, who has been deaf in one ear since contracting mumps at the age of 16, said: “Deafness is a disability and although it does not mean that children who are deaf are categorised as having learning difficulties, it does most definitely mean that learning can be difficult. 

"There remains a wide attainment gap between deaf children and their peers. There are a variety of reasons why this is the case, however it needn’t be this way, and it is clear that more could be done across the country to ensure deaf children receive the support they need to close this gap.

“There is a short fall in specialist teachers nationally and this is having an impact in Plymouth. The ratio of specialist teachers to deaf children in Plymouth is 1 to 72, much higher than the national average, and I have been told that these teachers are really being stretched, with unrealistic and unmanageable caseloads. In the South West as a whole, 49% of deaf children managed to achieve five GCSEs at grades A* to C in 2011, way below the average for children without a special educational need.”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Edward Timpson MP, accepted that figures were ‘disappointing’. He hoped that with “reforms and the renewed appetite to ensure that health care, social care and education work more closely around a family, those improvements will come back on track.”

The Minister also agreed to discuss some of the issues surrounding hearing aid provision and audiology services, raised by Ms Seabeck, with his colleagues in the Department for Health.