TSP Briefing
Issue 12
July/Aug 2015

Issue 12: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner
Issue 12
The hearing impairment landscape in a time of seismic change
July/August 2015
A Q&A with
Susan Daniels OBE


I hope that you have had a lovely summer so far and that you are enjoying a well-earned break. Moreover, if you teach GCSE students I really hope that, today of all days, they attain the results that both you and they deserve. It’s a difficult time for pupil, parent and teacher alike, so my best wishes go out to you.

With the GCSE results in mind, and in light of this issue’s interview with the longstanding and highly regarded chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, my thoughts remain with deaf children. For, as Susan points out in her opening answer: “Deafness is not a learning disability and yet in England just 36% of deaf children achieved five good GCSEs last year, compared to 65% of hearing children.” Clearly, at a time of real change in the education sector, these figures are particularly troubling. And it is perhaps this uncertainty that drove a record number of you to get in touch with me when you heard that I would be speaking with Susan.

Susan has been kind enough to answer as many questions as possible and I really appreciate the time that she has put into this issue and the time that you have taken to send in your questions. I hope that you find it as useful as I have and would welcome any comments, queries or suggestions.

Finally, before I go, I would very much like to feature your views in our autumn issue. You can find out more about what I am looking for in the pull-out box below and you will be entered into a prize draw too. So, if you have the time and/or inclination to send me 100 words on your most pressing concern/s as a SEND practitioner, please do, it would be good to hear from you.

Kind regards,

Edward Farrow

PS: If you do not currently subscribe to this publication, but would like to receive it in your inbox every month, please do sign up. Also, if you want to receive the latest updates on SEND and The SEND Practitioner, follow us on Twitter.


In this issue:

Examining the hearing impairment landscape in a time of seismic change: A Q&A with Susan Daniels OBE

About Susan Daniels OBE

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Examining the hearing impairment landscape in a time of seismic change
A Q&A with Susan Daniels OBE
You have been the chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) since 1992. Since then, you have overseen the growth and success of the UK’s leading charity and voice for young people with hearing impairments. Over these two decades, what progress has been made and are the challenges different or very much the same?

“It has been a wonderful journey and I am proud of the difference we have been able to make as a charity. For example, the NDCS campaigned for the introduction of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) which was rolled out across the UK in 2006 and will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year. Prior to this, many deaf children were not identified as deaf until they were three or four, too far beyond the critical age for language and communication development. Now, all children born deaf should be identified within the first few weeks of life. Early diagnosis removes a major barrier to achievement as deaf children can then receive support from the start.

“However, there are elements that remain very much the same. Access to effective education support, for example, is an ongoing issue. Although the attainment gap has closed since I have been in post, it needs to be eliminated altogether. Deafness is not a learning disability and yet in England just 36% of deaf children achieved five good GCSEs last year, compared to 65% of hearing children.

“There has been disappointingly slow progress over the accountability for the quality of education for deaf children. In my view, Ofsted pays insufficient attention to this area and parents are left in the dark about whether the support provided by their school and local authority is fit for purpose.  As a result, it falls to parents and charities like the NDCS to hold local authorities to account.”

Deafness affects more than 45,000 children in the UK, many of whom are born to hearing parents with no background in deafness. Over 75% of them attend mainstream schools with little specialist provision and over 85% of them do not have an SEN statement. These figures are set against a background of considerable changes and uncertainty outlined in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEN Code of Practice. Moreover, these changes will take place in an era of huge spending cuts. Taking all of this into account, what are the prospects for these children and how can their outcomes and futures be safeguarded?

“The future is uncertain. The latest guidance from the government indicates that funding for SEN is unlikely to increase in 2016/17. This is very worrying as there is already evidence that local authorities are already making it more difficult for children to receive a statutory assessment of their needs and an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

“In addition, NDCS has found that 18% of councils are planning to reduce budgets or staff in education services for deaf children this year. We believe the government should be holding local authorities to account for failing to protect services for deaf children.

“A consultation on Ofsted inspections of local authorities is expected this summer. NDCS will be calling on Ofsted to make sure it specifically considers the needs of deaf children as part of this process. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to inspection will benefit no one. It is unfair that parents of hearing children are provided with extensive information about the quality of support their child receives at school but, when a deaf child relies on support from local authority specialist education support services, parents do not receive the same quality of information about the effectiveness of the support their deaf child is receiving.”

A reader’s question: Is there sufficient support from specialist teachers and healthcare professionals to ensure that early years providers, schools and colleges can meet the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ responsibilities detailed in the Code of Practice?

“No. Data on the attainment of children with mild and unilateral loss indicates a very considerable gap with hearing children. Although children with a mild hearing loss can miss up to 50% of speech in class, they rarely receive support from teachers of the deaf. Many are not issued with hearing aids so do not get support from audiology services.

“The ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycle does have the potential to help deaf children. However, it is important to remember that deafness is a low incidence need. This means that many mainstream professionals may rarely come across a deaf child or have the opportunity to build up knowledge and expertise on how to support deaf children. To fulfil the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycle, teachers must have a good understanding of the needs of deaf children; the barriers they face in education; and the interventions that will help them overcome them. To do this, teachers will need to draw on support and advice from specialist teachers of the deaf.

“In the context of spending cuts, and at a time when there are fewer teachers of the deaf, we have grave doubts that this support will always be provided as needed.

“NDCS has worked with the National Sensory Impairment Partnership to develop resources which we hope will support professionals in this area, including guidance on the ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycle.”

A reader’s question: Is there sufficient support from specialist teachers and healthcare professionals to ensure that EHCPs are based on a rigorous assessment of education, health and care needs that take full account of the implications of sensory impairment for teaching, learning and on the child’s development?

“It is perhaps too soon to make a judgement, but the EHCPs we have seen so far do not inspire confidence. It is clear that local authorities are struggling to follow the guidance in many areas particularly with regards to assessing the needs of a child, defining outcomes and setting out the steps and provision required to achieve the desired outcomes. We are also concerned that contributions from health and social care are undeveloped.”

A reader’s question: As they stand, do you feel that local offers are really taking account of the particular needs of children and families with hearing impairment?

“NDCS is currently carrying out an audit of local offers and we hope to publish our findings in September. It is clear, though, that local offers are still very patchy in terms of the information that is provided about support for deaf children and young people. For example, few local offers we have seen include information about specialist provision outside the local authority – which is a legal requirement.

“Local authorities also have a legal duty to respond to feedback from parents and young people and to keep their local offer under review. We encourage parents to contact their local authority to highlight the changes they would like to see in their child’s local offer.”

As a SEND practitioner, what are your most pressing concerns?

Over the past 12 issues, we have tried to interview as broad a church of experts as possible. With this in mind, as autumn’s 13th issue dovetails with the anniversary of the SEND reforms, we are particularly keen to hear from you.

If you have the time and/or inclination during the summer holidays, please do email me a brief description of your most pressing concern/s (no more than 100 words). I will collate and summarise all of your comments in a piece that will accompany our 13th expert Q&A and will also take on board all of your thoughts in future Q&As.

Your comments will be invaluable and all those received by Friday 28 August will be entered into a draw. Two lucky winners will receive one of the following two prizes:

If you would like to enter, please email your thoughts to: edward@realgroup.co.uk

Also, to find out more about the prizes and to access exclusive discounts, please see the foot of this email.

A reader’s question: What strategies can Susan recommend for teaching literacy to students with hearing impairments who cannot recognise or hear phonic sounds?

“Phonics is one of the key skills in teaching children to read. As it depends on hearing the sounds in words, it can seem counterproductive to use it with deaf children. However, it is possible for many deaf children to access phonics teaching. Of course, the more access they have to sound the better so we need good acoustic conditions in the classroom and for the hearing technology they use to be working as effectively as possible.

“Many of the strategies in use for hearing children can be adapted for deaf children. All deaf children are different and teaching phonics requires an individual, differentiated approach. However, a particularly useful strategy to help deaf children discriminate between the different sounds is by using a visual cueing system (i.e. as a sound is spoken, a particular hand shape or movement accompanies the sound).  It is important teachers feel confident in educating deaf children using phonics. NDCS strongly advocates teachers seeking as much advice and support from teachers of the deaf as possible.”

Teachers of the deaf will also be able to offer alternative strategies to learning literacy for those children who choose not to access sound.

A reader’s question: What kind of environment do I create in the classroom when the child is the only hearing impaired student? We have little knowledge of such, but the parents have been advised to expose her to normal situations, hence a classroom with hearing children. Please can Susan give me advice on the setting, positioning, volume and any other pertinent information?

“We would not teach a child to swim by throwing them into a swimming pool and hoping they would rise to the challenge and swim. Equally, we should never expect a deaf child to thrive in a ‘normal’ situation without making sure that there has been a proper assessment of their needs and all necessary reasonable adjustments are in place.

“Once these are in place, it might be that a deaf child can thrive in a mainstream setting with their hearing friends. However, some deaf children may need more specialist provision. We must always look at the needs of each individual deaf child.

“NDCS produces advice for schools on the type of reasonable adjustments that can be made to support deaf children in a mainstream setting – these are known as our ‘Supporting Achievement’ resources.

“The resource includes suggestions such as:

  • Improving the listening environment by, for example, ensuring there are soft furnishings to prevent noise reverberating.
  • Ensuring the child has access to the best possible hearing technology, if this is their preferred method of learning, and that this is being used properly.
  • Seating the child where they can clearly lip-read the teacher and, ideally, their hearing friends.
  • Ensuring that there is good deaf awareness in place across the school. This might include making sure that all staff know to speak clearly, at a normal pace and without anything obstructing their face.”

Please note: The ‘Supporting Achievement’ resources can be downloaded from: www.ndcs.org.uk/supportingachievement

A reader’s question: What advice is available for supporting a Year 10 English as an additional language (EAL) pupil who frequently removes hearing aids during lessons and what access arrangements would be suitable other than a live reader for language examinations? Please bear in mind that there are no teaching assistants at this independent senior school and access to LEA Specialist Teaching Services (STS) is also limited.

“It is important that you do not force your pupil to wear their hearing aids. This is only likely to make matters worse.

“The best approach is to understand why your pupil is unhappy wearing the hearing aids. Perhaps they are being removed because he or she is finding them uncomfortable or painful. This is an issue that can easily be rectified with the help of an audiologist who will check that the fitting of the aids is correct.

“If the pupil tells you they do not find the aids beneficial, perhaps an audiologist can adjust the settings or a teacher of the deaf could advise on alternative methods of learning. Be sure to share your observations with the parents if you are not in contact with the child’s audiologist.

“It may also be the case that the pupil has not come to terms with their deafness. Adolescence can be a difficult time for many deaf young people and, sadly, they may not always have a positive view of deafness, especially if they are the only deaf child in their class. If this is the case, they may benefit from emotional support or an opportunity to meet other deaf young people. NDCS offers a wide range of activities throughout the year in which we create a safe and deaf-friendly environment for deaf children and young people to try something new, improve their communication skills, meet deaf role models, and gain confidence in communicating with others – whether with speech, sign or a mixture of both.”

We also have a website for deaf young people aged between 12 and 18 called The Buzz which is full of games, events and discussion boards: www.ndcsbuzz.org.uk

“In terms of access arrangements, it is vital to ensure a deaf learner is not unfairly disadvantaged. Some deaf children have difficulties with language as a consequence of their deafness. This might make it harder for them to quickly understand what is being asked, or to show what they know in the subject being tested.

“Awarding organisations and universities have an obligation to make sure that access arrangements do not make exams easier for deaf students, so arrangements are limited. The following alternatives may be appropriate for deaf students, depending on their specific needs.

  • Modified language papers: the language and sentence structure of exams can be changed so that deaf students find it easier to understand the question. The exam board or a teacher of the deaf will be able to provide further advice. Modified papers are not available in Scotland.
  • British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation: students who use BSL can have the contents of a question paper signed to them in some exams. This is not permitted in English, Gaelic, Welsh or modern foreign language exams, either in the ‘speaking and listening’ or the written parts. However, BSL interpreters can interpret the instructions on some papers.
  • Extra time: some deaf students need longer to process what they read and for this reason they are allowed up to 25% extra time. Sometimes deaf students will be allowed extra time in combination with one of the adjustments described above.”

“Finally, it is important to remember that all schools have to follow the Equality Act 2010 and make reasonable adjustments to support deaf children. Although your school is independent of the local authority, there is an argument that the school should buy in support from a teacher of the deaf to make sure that deaf students can achieve their potential. If, as a school, you are not confident of being able to meet a deaf student’s needs, it is vital that you discuss this with the child’s parents as a matter of urgency.”

A reader’s question: A student has been granted 25% extra exam time because she needs more time to process language. As far as I can establish this is true for class lessons which involve discussion. Does severe hearing loss impact on processing speed purely in verbal situations or also in written work?

“It is known that deaf children can sometimes experience challenges with working memory. This means that it can be harder for deaf children to retain something in the mind whilst working on something else. It is thought that these difficulties arise due to language delay in the early years.

“This is an area where more research is needed to determine exactly how deaf children are affected and how best to support them. As the deaf child’s auditory memory may not be as well developed as other children, the NDCS stresses that it is important to cover the following three essential elements:

  • Build processing time into lessons, particularly if they contain new information or a ‘question and answer’ session.
  • Include opportunities for repetition in lesson time.
  • Avoid overloading lessons with too much information or too much talk.

A reader’s question: An AS level student with Pendred’s syndrome currently wears bilateral radio aids and also relies on the use of a microphone aid in class. He will be undergoing a cochlear implant next summer at the end of his A2 studies. I have not had any formal training in how to best support hearing impaired students and I have only worked with two or three students so my knowledge is limited.

We have had lots of difficulties with this student – a boy who is intellectually extremely bright but who appears unmotivated and unengaged. Finally, at the end of this year in his annual review meeting, I realised that we could be mistaking his lack of effort, motivation and very poor organisational skills for an overlapping learning need that we may have missed because potentially he could be a gifted and talented student.

So my question is this: with all other specific learning difficulties there can frequently be needs that overlap (i.e. comorbidity). What do stats/experience reveal for hearing impaired children with other learning difficulties?

“The government does not collect data on comorbidity, so it is hard to give definite answers.

“Some research has indicated that 40% of deaf children have additional needs, though it is clear that many of those needs may be very minor, such as someone who wears glasses. A survey by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) suggests that 20% of deaf children have an additional special educational need, of which the most common is a moderate learning difficulty.

“It may be that your student has an additional learning need. However, it may also be beneficial to check that he is fully able to access your teaching and is not suffering ‘listening fatigue’ from long periods of listening. If you have not done so already, you should seek feedback from the student himself. If he is unable to understand everything in the classroom, it would not be surprising that he is disengaged.

“I am surprised to learn that you have not had any formal training. Have you been in contact with the specialist education service for deaf children at your local authority? It may be that a teacher of the deaf can provide you with specialist advice and support (though this may depend on your local authority’s eligibility criteria for support).”

A reader’s question: My grandson has glue ear. He has been offered a hearing aid as the waiting list for grommets is 11 months (a whole school year). Would hearing aids really help?

“Glue ear is a common childhood condition where the middle ear becomes filled with fluid. With fluid blocking the middle ear, it becomes harder for sound to pass through to the inner ear. This can make quieter sounds difficult to hear.

“Hearing aids work by amplifying sounds and can be useful for some children with glue ear, especially those awaiting surgery for grommet insertion. There are different types of hearing aids that are suitable for children with the condition such as behind the ear hearing aids or bone conduction hearing aids.

“Good quality, digital hearing aids are available free of charge for all children on the NHS.”

Do you have any closing words for SEND practitioners?

“It is important to remember that deafness is not a learning disability. Providing the right support is in place, there is no reason why deaf students cannot do as well as their hearing peers. Having high expectations for the deaf children in your class is crucial.

“Education professionals should not be afraid to seek advice and support from specialists on how best to support the children. Contact your local authority specialist education service for support from a teacher of the deaf or contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline: 0808 800 8880.

“We have had a challenging few years and there are many more to come. By working together, we can all help to ensure that every deaf child achieves their full potential.”

About Susan Daniels OBE

Susan Daniels has been chief executive of the NDCS since 1992. She has been responsible for the significant growth of the charity both in staff numbers and income, enabling the NDCS to extend its reach to more deaf children, young people and their families.

Before joining the NDCS, Susan was head of education, employment and training and then head of policy and research at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, (now Action on Hearing Loss). In 2006, she was awarded an OBE for services to deaf children and their families.

Susan is currently chair of the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme Quality Assurance Advisory Group, which monitors the delivery of the programme across hospitals in England. Susan is also the chair of Groundbreakers, an informal networking group for women leaders in the voluntary sector.

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This e-zine and the articles on Real Training’s website are offered for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute professional or legal advice or opinions. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this e-zine or the website without first seeking professional or legal advice.Contact usIf you have any questions, or there is anything that you would like us to feature in future issues, please do get in touch.


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