A deputation of parents asked councillors and health chiefs to protect the support provided for deaf children in Brighton this afternoon (Tuesday 10 November).
One of the parents, Anna Jenkins, said: “For the most part we welcome the special educational needs and disability (SEND) review as a step forward to more interconnected and efficient working.
“We recognise the council is facing considerable challenges to budgets at this time in addition to a number of changes to SEND legislation.
“However, with the proposed move from teachers of the deaf (ToDs) to specialist advisers, we have concerns that children will no longer receive such high-quality support.
“Currently teachers of the deaf are required to have a mandatory qualification in order to support deaf children and we would passionately advocate that the current skills and experience requirements are protected.”
She said that she and her colleagues standing before the meeting had good hearing.
The meeting, at the Brighton Centre, brought together Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee and the Health and Wellbeing Board.
Mrs Jenkins said: “We had little or no experience of deafness before our children were born and it is a frightening place to find yourself.
“In fact 90 per cent of deaf children are born to hearing parents and the vast majority go on to be educated mainstream schools – schools that may have as little experience of deafness as we had.
“Teachers of the deaf gave all of us the support and guidance we needed after our children were diagnosed, the vast majority at just a few weeks old.
“Their wealth of experience helped us to become deaf aware parents in those crucial early years.
“Our children are all success stories – all in local schools with local friends.
“Even with a minor or moderate hearing loss, a child’s education would be dramatically affected if the correct support is not in place.
“For example, a child with just a minor hearing loss will miss between 25 to 50 per cent of what a teacher says and will not hear anything if sat at the back of the classroom.
“If I encouraged my child to skip school for a day, I would be fined in recognition of the learning he’d miss.
“If a deaf child isn’t supported sufficiently in the classroom, that missed learning will cost a whole lot more.
“By bringing this deputation we want to ensure that the number of teachers of the deaf is protected and that children with and without education, health and care plans are well supported.”
The parents were supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society.
The deputation pointed out that the ratio of teachers to deaf children in Brighton and Hove was lower than the national average – 1:52 locally compared with 1:49.
And they did less well in their GCSEs. They told the joint committee: “Last year 43 per cent of deaf children in the south east achieved five A*to C (grades) at GCSE in comparison with 68 per cent of children with no identified special educational need (SEN).”
Councillor Dan Yates, who chaired the meeting, said that the council took this very seriously and regretted any anxiety felt by parents during the consultation.
He said: “It’s currently just a consultation with staff which is due to finish at the end of January next year.”
Councillor Yates encouraged everyone who wanted to contribute to the wider consultation under discussion today to let the council know their views.
The wider consultation would seek people’s views about the council’s strategy for providing services for children with special educational needs and disabilities and adults with learning disabilities.
When the consultation starts, it will be included on the consultations page on the council’s website.