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MP backs campaign to help local deaf children achieve their potential

September 18, 2008 12:00 AM

Tom Brake MP, for Carshalton and Wallington met with Laura Bolter, a deaf 16-year-old at the Liberal Democrat political party conference, to find out about the challenges facing deaf children in the education system. Tom Brake MP is backing the National Deaf Children's Society's (NDCS) campaign to close the educational attainment gap that exists between deaf and hearing children. NDCS' major campaign report 'Must do better' confirms that deaf children in the UK are being let down by the education system and falling well behind their hearing peers.

Recent statistics reveal that deaf children in the UK are 42% less likely to achieve 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C than hearing children (1). Tom Brake MP is supporting NDCS's campaign to close this attainment significant gap and is urging the government to take urgent action. He has already shown his support by asking his son to draw what he wants to be when he grows up on an NDCS postcard to highlight that without the right support at school, deaf children are being held back from achieving their own ambitions and dreams.

Tom Brake MP explains: "Education is the single most critical service determining the life chances of most deaf children in my constituency and it is a scandal that the present education system is failing so many. It was great to meet Laura to find out what deaf children can achieve with the right support. I am fully supporting the NDCS 'Must do better' campaign report. There is absolutely no reason why deaf children without additional needs should not be achieving on a par with their hearing peers and fulfilling their potential."

Laura explained to Tom Brake MP: "Growing up as a deaf person I and lots of my friends have experienced patronising attitudes from some teachers, other adults and children who thought of me as the deaf child who wouldn't achieve. They spoke slowly to me and could be quite condescending.

"It is frustrating that people, especially teachers sometimes don't understand deafness, and that deaf children do not always get the right support at school. I'm hoping for good results in my GCSEs and am aiming to go into social work or teaching when I leave school. But I've only been able to achieve at school thanks to all the support I had from my parents, my specialist teachers of the deaf and my generally very supportive teachers throughout my education. It's so important that other deaf children get this same support."

Susan Daniels OBE, NDCS Chief Executive, adds:

"It is fantastic that Tom Brake MP is supporting the rights of deaf children and has taken the time to meet with Laura. Laura is a fantastically high achiever, and has proved that deafness shouldn't hold anyone back. Too many deaf children are not achieving their educational potential. We are calling on the government to take a lead and make a commitment to close the attainment gap between deaf children and their hearing peers by 2022. The national governments of the UK must give leadership, set standards and provide funding to ensure that no deaf child is left behind. A comprehensive strategy, tailored and targeted at the specific needs of deaf children is urgently required; without this deaf children will continue to be left behind." (2)

The NDCS campaign report 'Must do better' details the key barriers to deaf children's achievement and provides detailed solutions for the government to act on. Research outlined in the report shows that parents with deaf children experience considerable geographical variations in the information given to them, the quality of audiology services, family support, specialist education support and local authority provision.

The research further highlights that parents, teachers and specialist staff are not getting the resources they need from local authorities to be able to support deaf children. A recent survey of parents with deaf children, outlined in the report, shows that one in five parents with deaf children believe that their child's school or early years' setting has low expectations of what their child can achieve.

Over 100 MPs have shown their support for the NDCS Close the gap campaign by signing an Early Day Motion, calling on the government to take action to address the attainment gap that exists between deaf and hearing children (3).

There are 35,000 deaf children in the UK and 80% attend mainstream schools. NDCS is the national charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and young people. NDCS represents the interests and campaigns for the rights of all deaf children and young people from birth to independence.

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