A national charity hopes to persuade a Yorkshire local authority to backtrack on controversial plans to cut the number of deaf teachers this week.
Kirklees Council insists it is reducing the number of specialist teachers of the deaf from 10.3 to 7.7 because of “falling demand.”
But the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) fears that deaf children’s attainment will suffer compared to their peers.
Alison Lawson, regional director, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber for the National Deaf Children’s Society will this week join a discussion of members of a sub group of Kirklees Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee.
The charity is concerned about the future attainment of deaf and hearing impaired children in the light of figures they received in December from Kirklees Council.
Mrs Lawson said: “We are particularly concerned about Early Years which shows that only 25 per cent of deaf children compared to 64 per cent of their hearing peers are achieving good levels of progress in the Early Years Foundation Stage in Kirklees. That means that deaf children are at a significant disadvantage at the end of their first year of school.
“(In Kirklees) 32 per cent of deaf and hearing impaired children are achieving five GCSEs compared to 53 per cent of hearing children. That is not setting them up for adulthood.”
The charity also has concerns about the council’s transition plan for the changes.
Mrs Lawson hopes that joining the Changes to Services for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children Sub Group on Wednesday will help to persuade the council to reconsider its moves.
A report to be considered by the committee says: “NDCS believes that the attainment gap between deaf children and their hearing peers is likely to worsen in the face of cuts to vital specialist educational services for deaf children and this will severely affect their life chances.”
The report, which raised a number of concerns by the NDCS and was put to councillors last year, said that “parents are already reporting a restricted service with any absences of teachers immediately impacting on the service delivered to their deaf child.”
Kirklees Council insists that deaf children will still have the support they need to help them fulfil their potential and the changes will improve its service.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “The number of specialist teachers of the deaf is being reduced from 10.3 to 7.7 as a result of falling demand. The actual demand for this specialist provision is actually between 6.2 and 6.9 staff. There are no redundancies. Staff will be redeployed into other areas of Special Educational Needs in order to increase the provision where demand is growing.
“Deaf and hearing impaired children will continue to have all the help that they need and deserve. We are only making changes so that we can better reflect what’s needed in the area - there’s no doubt whatsoever that the support we offer to deaf children will continue to be high quality and will continue meeting the demand.
“Demand for the specialist service has fallen in recent years and we are responding to that. At the same time, we have ensured that support for deaf children will remain sufficient and will be extremely strong.
Teachers of the Deaf will also continue giving children the one-to-one support that we know they need.
“These changes are part of a wider review and we are not making cuts to Special Educational Needs (SEN). We know that redesigning SEN services will benefit the maximum number of children and families.
We are also working to ensure that the transition to the new arrangements will be seamless for local families.”
Mrs Lawson’s attendance at Wednesday’s meeting is the latest salvo in a campaign by the NDCS against the changes which it says it will continue to challenge.