Derbyshire County Council's leader says his child is deaf - and defends services

The county council's leader has revealed he is a father and an uncle to two deaf children - as he defended his authority's educational support for youngsters with hearing impairments after a charity boss raised concerns.

Saturday, 20th January 2018, 2:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd January 2018, 9:47 am
Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council.

Derbyshire County Council (DCC) was responsible for helping 701 deaf children in 2017, up from 624 in 2014.

But according to a report by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), there was not an increase in the number of specialist teachers in Derbyshire during those three years.

There were 7.5 full-time equivalent teachers of the deaf in 2017, down from eight in 2014.

Martin Thacker, East Midlands' regional director for the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS), said: "Instead of cutting services and resources, such as teachers of the deaf, local authorities like DCC should do more to give deaf children a better chance to succeed.

"The cuts to services for deaf children in our country are a national disgrace."

Councillor Barry Lewis - who became leader of DCC when the Conservatives took power in last year's local elections - responded: "As a father and an uncle to two deaf children who use these services in Derbyshire, I can vouch for the quality of this service and it is one I am very proud of.

"Despite the challenges of delivering these types of important services in the face of service pressure, we should always strive to work in new ways and improve efficiency."

A DCC spokesman added: "DCC has ensured that, in spite of a slight staffing reduction in the county, each child with a hearing impairment continues to receive effective support which is appropriate to their individual needs from our teachers of the deaf team.'¨

"We have been able to maintain the regularity of visits to these children by successfully developing more efficient ways of working.

"DCC also continues to provide funding for additional support and equipment, where a need is identified.

"We have never encountered a shortage of applicants for teachers of the deaf jobs in Derbyshire and this has helped us to ensure that the quality of support we offer has remained high and that children with hearing impairments in Derbyshire continue to achieve well in our schools.

"We know this because our team works closely with the children to monitor their progress in school and from the satisfaction surveys in which parents and carers have told us how much they value the service the team provides."'Government needs to act before it's too late'Nationally, according to the CRIDE report, there has been a 14 per cent reduction in the number of teachers of the deaf in the past seven years - amid a 31 per cent rise in the number of youngsters needing support.

Researchers found nearly 60 per cent of existing specialist staff are due to retire within 15 years.

Susan Daniels, NDCS chief executive, claimed that despite deafness not being a learning disability, deaf children often fell 'a whole grade behind their hearing friends at school'.

She said: "The evidence couldn't be clearer - from every angle and at every turn, a whole generation of deaf children will have their futures decimated if the Government doesn't act before it's too late."

Mr Thacker added: "When there are groups of children underperforming in schools, the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted appear keen to know why and then ensure there is improvement.

"We are now presented with real evidence that shows deaf children in our schools are underperforming.

"The DfE and Ofsted need to acknowledge that and do something about it.

"They need to be addressing the situation now."

The Government insists an extra £223million is being spent on special needs education.

Before he was sacked by the pime minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle, Robert Goodwill, then minister of state for children and families, said: "Most children who are deaf are able to attend their local schools while receiving expert advice, and for those with more complex needs there are specialist deaf schools.

"This has shown results, with the ‎proportion of children with hearing impairments achieving five A*-C GCSEs, including in English and maths, at a record high."