The mother of two deaf children has issued a rallying cry to the people of Wales to back her campaign, calling for more support for every deaf child across the country.
Ros Hannam today (Monday 16 October) launched a parent-led petition, supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society, calling on the Senedd to urge the Welsh Government to invest in specialist qualified Teachers of the Deaf.
Teachers of the Deaf play a vital role in supporting the language and communication development of deaf children. They provide advice to families of newly identified deaf children, visit deaf children at school or college – to give them any extra help they need – and provide guidance to mainstream teachers and schools on deaf awareness and inclusion.
Teachers of the Deaf are at the forefront of early intervention for deaf children. The National Deaf Children’s Society believes no-one else has as much expertise and specialism to provide deaf-specific advice to families on language and communication in the early years. Or to provide advice to early year settings and mainstream schoolteachers on what effective inclusion looks like.
But Wales has lost one-in-five Teachers of the Deaf since 2011. Furthermore, one-third of Teachers of the Deaf across the country are set to retire over the next decade.
Ros is the mother of five-year-old Lola, who is profoundly deaf and two-year-old Rudi, who is severely deaf. Both children failed their new-born hearing screening tests and have since received cochlear implants, which allow some deaf people to process sounds and speech.
Ros, from Caldicot, in Monmouthshire, is calling on the Welsh Government to strengthen the Teacher of the Deaf workforce, by:
- Making a long-term financial commitment to restoring Teacher of the Deaf numbers in Wales to their 2011 levels and working closely with the National Deaf Children’s Society and BATOD.
- Highlighting to local authorities the important role that Teachers of the Deaf play in meeting the needs of deaf children and their families.
Ros, a secondary school teacher, said: “Deaf children living in a hearing world need ongoing support. But Lola and Rudi currently receive just one hour of support a week from a Teacher of the Deaf. Calculated over a year, during school time, that’s 37 hours, which does not even equate to my working week.
“Lola is in a mainstream primary school, which is right for her, but had she gone to a special provision, she would be seeing specialists and other deaf children every day. Her progress is inspiring but if the technology fails, we have very little to fall back on.”
Ros believes there is also a vital need for more targeted support for the parents of deaf children. She explained: “More than nine-in-ten deaf children are born to hearing parents, with no experience of deafness. When I discovered Lola was deaf, I was shell-shocked. I was oblivious to my complete lack of deaf knowledge – I was clueless, as most of society is.”
Ros recalled how their family’s Teacher of the Deaf was instrumental in helping them challenge a local authority’s decision not to award Lola, then aged four, with an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which is a key document to help a child with additional needs (ALN).
She said: “I was flabbergasted to be told Lola would not qualify for an IDP. But with support from Lola’s Teacher of the Deaf, we were able to challenge the decision and the council quickly backed down. I want other parents to know they too can challenge these decisions.”
Ros hopes her campaigning will ensure that deaf children have more opportunities to develop vital communication skills from an early age and receive more support at school to prevent them from falling behind their classmates.
Ros is also calling for all education practitioners to undergo deaf awareness training to enable them to offer every deaf child in Wales an equal opportunity and experience.
“Without targeted, specialist support in place, deaf children will continue to fall behind their peers and not fulfil their potential. We should all care about being a fully inclusive country that celebrates and supports diversity, so I call on everyone in Wales to support me,” Ros added.
Hazel Badjie, Head of Policy and Influence, Wales, with the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We fully support Ros’s campaign and urge everyone to sign her petition.
“Every deaf child in Wales should, as a fundamental right, be able to get the support they need from a qualified Teacher of the Deaf to help them reach their full potential. We are deeply concerned that the latest figures show a 20% fall in the numbers of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in Wales.
“We know deaf children can achieve anything that hearing children can but for this to happen the workforce must be in place so deaf children can receive high quality and effective support and avoid falling behind. This year-on-year decline in the Teacher of the Deaf workforce is leaving deaf children at risk of falling behind at every stage of school.
“We want to see a commitment from local authorities and the Welsh Government to work together with the National Deaf Children’s Society and BATOB to increase the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf employed across Wales, over the next ten years, so parents can be certain their deaf child is receiving the support they need to succeed.”