Deaf children in Scotland face a growing education crisis, according to a new report which says nearly a third of specialist teachers have been cut in the last eight years.
The research by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) and the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) puts the cuts at 29% since 2011.
It also states 30% of the remaining teachers do not have the qualifications to support the pupils or their families.
Danielle Robertson, from East Lothian, is mother to four-year-old Ella who has been deaf from birth and depends on the support she gets from a specialist teacher for deaf children.
She said: “We have been so lucky with our Teacher of the Deaf, Catherine. She is just an amazing person, we count her as family now.
“She sees Ella twice a week, once at home and once at nursery and she is so patient with Ella because sometimes Ella just wants to play, but Catherine always makes sure she ‘works’ before play. The bond her and Ella have is just amazing.
“Ella wouldn’t be where she is today without Catherine. Her communication has improved so much over the past year and that’s all thanks to her. She is always there if we need to ask her anything.
“Nothing is ever too much for Catherine, she even comes to meetings for Ella on her days off.
“After being at a few National Deaf Children’s Society events and hearing about other families who don’t have a Teacher of the Deaf, we are so lucky to not only have one but to have as great a one as her and we just couldn’t imagine not having her in our lives.
“Ella is due to start pre-school nursery and Catherine has been with us every step, from phoning round schools to find out ratios, to coming round schools with us. Honestly, we can’t tell you how much we appreciate her.”
There are 3300 deaf children in Scotland with only 154 full-time equivalent specialist teachers, down from 218 in 2011.
And with nearly half (46%) of those specialists due to retire in the next ten to 15 years the charity is now warning of a recruitment crisis on the horizon.
Alasdair O’Hara, who leads NDCS campaigning work in Scotland, said: “Deaf children can achieve absolutely anything in life, but only if they get the right support.
“Today’s report highlights how across Scotland, there has been a complete failure to invest in our deaf children.
“This is utterly shameful, and we need to see an urgent investment in frontline staff from the Scottish Government and from councils up and down the country to solve this crisis and deliver for an entire generation of deaf children.
“The Scottish Government recently released an additional £15m to recruit new teaching assistants to support children with additional learning needs.
“If they can do this, then they must invest a fraction of that in rebuilding the education support our deaf children rely on.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential, including those with sensory impairments.
“The Additional Support for Learning Act places education authorities under duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those affected by hearing impairment.
“The Scottish Government provides over £500,000 to voluntary sector organisations to support children and young people with sensory impairment and £150,000 to the Scottish Sensory Centre to support training to increase the capacity of staff in schools to provide effective support to pupils with a sensory impairment.”