Deaf school kids lack support

Children with only mild hearing losses are being overlooked in schools, resulting in academic achievement no better than profoundly deaf children, research suggests.

Researchers say that because slightly deaf children have better speech skills than profoundly deaf pupils, serious learning issues can be overlooked.

These include smaller vocabularies and difficulties in acquiring information by listening to lessons in class.

Less hours

As a result, resources are mainly targeted at children with more severe hearing loss, researchers found.

Students with mild and moderate deafness received only 1.6 and 2.6 hours of support each week respectively, compared with 17.2 hours for profoundly deaf students.

Educational achievement

The research, led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at the educational achievement scores of 540 pupils in Scotland aged 16, using a score which covered all the exams taken.

The difference in scores between pupils aged 16 with mild deafness (144) and profound deafness (128) was minimal, researchers found.

Pupils with any degree of deafness were below the average academic score for the general population (173), particularly in examinations for English.

The report recommends more support hours for children with mild hearing loss as well as improved acoustics in classrooms to better enable them to hear lessons.

Life after school

Researchers also looked at how well schools prepared deaf and hard of hearing pupils for adult life and assessed parents’ views of their children’s education.

The majority of 16-28 year-olds preferred to use English speech to communicate (75 per cent), while only 15 per cent preferred to communicate with British Sign Language and nine per cent with English based signing.

This was potentially due to the lack of availability of sign language in mainstream schools, where the majority (85 per cent) of deaf pupils are educated, according to the report.

Teachers and parents

The investigators found that schools struggled to communicate with parents of children with hearing loss.

Teachers did not always inform parents about their child’s poor literacy skills and neither did they always have high expectations for deaf pupils, researchers found.

Schools were also unsure when engaging with parents from poorer backgrounds, the study concluded.

If we are serious about inclusion and getting it right for every child, the principle has to be about needs and not numbers. A good place to start would be to identify ways we can increase communication and cooperation between parents, teachers, education authorities and researchers to arrest these disparities.

Dr Rowena ArshadHead of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education

Related Links

The Scottish Sensory Centre

Study Inclusive and Special Education at Edinburgh

Moray House School of Education

The Nuffield Foundation