Snippets from today's debate regarding deaf support in education. Unfortunately, nothing mentioned by the MP's regarding ATR's request to include NON-signing support issues in any detail. Over-focus on signed support tends to downgrade the majority needs for the rest. Only the education minister raised those points.
Key comments are highlighted in red.
I appreciate the reassurance that has just been given, but as the money is not ring-fenced, if the NDCS or anyone else can find any evidence that it is not being used properly for profoundly deaf students between the ages of 16 and 18, will the Minister be prepared to review the matter?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I will take up that point with the NDCS in our meeting on 29 October to understand the evidence in relation to that. In addition to high needs funding, colleges receive disadvantage funding, which provides funds to support students from areas of economic deprivation, based on the index of multiple deprivation—the IMD—and with additional needs, including moderate learning difficulties and disabilities. As I said, that funding is not ring-fenced and can be moved.
I am very supportive of local authorities working together and I know that many will be considering how best to support the sensory impaired children and young people in their area, including by working closely with neighbouring authorities to provide joint services. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney asked about joint working. To support that, we have established a national network for designated clinical officers, funded a local authority-led regional network and developed resources to support joint self-assessment and peer review. We have also funded a SEND leadership programme and legal training for all local authorities and their health partners to ensure that they are clear on their statutory responsibilities.
I understand that many local authorities have provided information to the National Deaf Children’s Society, setting out their plans for sensory support services in the future. My hon. Friend raised particular concerns about the provision in Suffolk. We have provided an additional £140 million in high needs funding this year and will provide an additional £120 million next year. In Suffolk, the local authority will receive £59.9 million in high needs funding this year. I understand that Suffolk has not indicated cuts to funding for deaf services this year.
Also this year, we have contracted with the Whole School SEND Consortium to deliver a two-year programme to help to embed SEND in school improvement and help schools to identify and meet their training needs in relation to SEND. That will of course include ensuring schools, including mainstream schools, know where to access the expertise that they need to support pupils with a hearing impairment.
In addition, a team from University College London will be working with the SEND sector to understand better the supply, demand and drivers for SEND training and continuing professional development. That will enable us to target resources at addressing those areas, too. The National Sensory Impairment Partnership will feed the views of the sensory impairment sector into that work, and we will review the NDCS report on local authority funding as part of that work. We have also asked Ofsted to consider how our accountability system can sufficiently reward schools for their work with pupils who need extra support, and encourage schools to focus on all pupils, not just the highest achievers.
As the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse stated, the vast majority of deaf children are born to hearing parents who have no prior experience of deafness. That is why the Government have separately invested in a number of programmes to support children and young people with hearing impairments, and their families. We have funded the development of an early support guide for parents of deaf children, available through the Council for Disabled Children website. In addition, we have funded the NDCS’s I-Sign project and the development of a family-orientated sign language programme, which is available free on the family sign language website.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether more can be done to ensure that school forums include more representation in respect of SEND. Local authorities are required to include at least one representative from a maintained special school, and a special academy, in their area. Many extend the representation of specialist providers by creating SEND subgroups to look specifically at issues relating to children and young people with SEND across the whole age range to 25. In some areas, there is a strong partnership with parent groups so that they are engaged as well. We need to learn from those areas and spread that good practice.
I want to touch on a few issues that colleagues mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead and the hon. Member for Nottingham South talked about the lack of teachers for deaf and hearing impaired children.
To be awarded qualified teacher status, trainees must satisfy the teachers’ standards, which include a requirement that they have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with SEN, and are able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.
Also, as the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) pointed out, we provided £900,000 of funding to the National Sensory Impairment
Partnership between 2016 and 2018 to equip the school workforce. The new SEND schools workforce contract with the Whole School SEND Consortium, led by nasen—the National Association for Special Educational Needs—aims to equip schools to identify and meet their training needs.
I am very grateful for and appreciate the responses from the Front Benchers. I hope that when the Minister has the opportunity to meet the NDCS in October, he will have good news for it. I have been somewhat encouraged by some of his responses to the questions that I have asked today, but he has heard appeals from everybody who has spoken. He knows the pressures that have been described, and the hope is that he can champion the deaf community in Government.
I thank the Backbench Business Committee for our opportunity to have this debate; the signers for their sterling work; the House authorities for providing them with this opportunity; and all colleagues who have contributed to the debate. Many of them made kind comments about me, and I am grateful for them, but they apply to everybody who has participated in the debate and all the members of the all-party parliamentary group on deafness, who work with and for deaf people and with great organisations such as the National Deaf Children’s Society, Action on Hearing Loss, Auditory Verbal, The Ear Foundation and so many others.
Deaf people do not want charity. We know that. They want fairness. This debate demonstrates that we here collectively get that, and the hope is that the Government get it, too.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered deaf children’s services.