Deaf children in Barking and Dagenham could fall behind in lessons, charity warns

Deaf pupils could be at risk of falling behind in lessons, a charity warned, after it emerged that education chiefs are charging schools for part of their specialist tuition.

Barking and Dagenham Council directly funds five teachers and an extra one for early years to work with hearing impaired pupils but also gives schools the option of buying in extra staff who provide coaching for the teachers. These additional staff members come under the umbrella of “traded services”.

But the National Deaf Children’s Society criticised the system and said up to 180 children with hearing difficulties in the borough could be affected by it.

Deputy director of policy and campaigns Jo Campion said: “We are calling on the council to urgently review its decision and ensure that these children are given the same chance as other children to achieve.”

A NDCS spokesman added: “In other cases where we have seen councils transfer onto schools the responsibility for buying services for deaf children, the council hasn’t given extra funds to the school. This has resulted in schools refusing to pay for the service and deaf children’s support being stopped.”

Dagenham mum Alison Armitage, 36, fears her profoundly deaf 11-month-old baby Leia may not be given access to hearing aids and extra tuition when she goes to school.

Mrs Armitage, of Norton Road, said: “I am absolutely devastated. It is difficult for people to understand how important it is for deaf children to attend a mainstream school and play with the kids.

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“Sixty-five per cent of deaf children do not get good GCSEs. If anything, we need to do more to help deaf children.”

The charity said about 60 per cent of deaf pupils fail to achieve five good GCSEs, compared with 30 per cent of children with unimpaired hearing.

Barking and Dagenham Council said there has been “no change” in its policy and that “additional staff have always been part of the services offered”.

A spokesman added: “We are at a loss as to why we are being targeted. We’ve always had traded services.

“The additional staff are there to coach the teachers. We are probably one of the best providers of these services compared to other boroughs.”

The council added in a statement: “We have five teachers, based in schools, funded by the council. We also have a teacher supporting the early years. Additionally, the schools may purchase further support from a qualified teacher of the deaf.”