Deaf children 'not getting enough support' as teacher numbers fall

The National Deaf Children’s Society is warning that the situation is likely to get worse.

Warning deaf children in Scotland are not getting enough support as teacher numbers fall, report finds iStock

Thousands of deaf children across Scotland are not getting enough support after a 40% drop in the number of specialist support teachers in the last decade, a charity has warned.

A new report published by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) found that the number of Teachers of the Deaf with the mandatory qualification has fallen from 165 in 2011 to 100 in 2022.

And the National Deaf Children’s Society is warning that the situation is likely to get worse, with around 45% of specialist teachers planning to retire over the next decade.

The charity said that Teachers of the Deaf play a vital role in supporting the language and communication development of deaf children and warned that increasing numbers of such youngsters are missing out on this support.

Mark Ballard, head of policy and influencing for Scotland with the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Every deaf child in Scotland should, as a fundamental right, be able to get the support they need from a fully qualified Teacher of the Deaf to help them reach their full potential.

“We are very concerned that these new figures show a 40% fall in the numbers of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in Scotland, twice the decline in other parts of the UK.

“With the right support in place, deaf children can achieve anything their peers can, but sadly, this simply isn’t happening. The latest Scottish Government statistics show they’re twice as likely to leave school with no qualifications and half as likely to go to university.

“That’s why we want to see a commitment from local authorities and the Scottish Government to work together to return the number of fully qualified Teachers of the Deaf employed across Scotland to the 2011 level, over the next ten years.”

The National Deaf Children’s Society also wants the Scottish Government to develop and deliver a Scotland-wide workforce strategy for Teachers of the Deaf, and to ensure they are properly paid for the extra responsibilities they take on, in recognition that their specialist expertise is valued.

Such a workforce strategy would involve fully funded places being available for teachers who want to study for the mandatory qualifications, so a new generation of Teachers of the Deaf can be trained to replace those who are leaving.

The charity said that Teachers of the Deaf give advice to families of newly identified deaf children, visit deaf children at school or college – to give them any extra help they need – and provide guidance to mainstream teachers and schools on deaf awareness and inclusion.

Gemma Laird from the Kennoway area of Fife, whose 13-year-old daughter is deaf, described her Teacher of the Deaf as an “absolute necessity” who quickly solves any issues.

She said: “We are a hearing family and although my daughter’s hearing needs are not as big as other young people’s, the Teacher of the Deaf has helped validate my daughter’s past experiences, educate myself on my daughter’s needs and empower her to be confident in the school.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “All teachers provide support to children and young people with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.

“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 deafness.

“We are working to remove barriers for British Sign Language (BSL) users to becoming teachers, along with the General Teaching Council (GTCS). The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) also now offers qualifications in BSL from level 3 to level 8.

“The Scottish Government provides over £500,000 to voluntary sector organisations to support children and young people with additional support needs including sensory impairment. This includes £150,000 to the Scottish Sensory Centre to support training to increase the capacity of staff in schools to provide effective support to deaf pupils.”

Cosla has been asked for comment.