More than 500 families across Tower Hamlets have been left fearing for their deaf children’s futures by planned council cuts.
Tower Hamlets Council is aiming to slash its Support for Learning Service by half, reducing staff numbers from 28.5 to just 14.5 from April next year, and is now consulting on the matter.
The service supports thousands of children with special educational needs and disabilities, including 519 who are deaf.
The council’s Teachers of the Deaf, who play a vital role in a deaf child’s life, are among those targeted by the cuts. Under the plans, their numbers could be reduced from 6.8 to just three, leaving each teacher responsible for visiting and supporting more 170 deaf children in schools across the borough.
Deaf children in London already achieve less than their hearing classmates at every stage of school, including two whole grades less at GCSE on average, but parents in Tower Hamlets the vital support being provided has meant their children are thriving in their education.
The National Deaf Children’s Society says the proposals are set to devastate deaf education across the borough and undermine the progress deaf children have been making because they will no longer get the level of support they need.
Teachers of the Deaf support children from diagnosis right through to the end of their education, and also train schools on how to educate deaf children.
As a result, the charity is calling on Tower Hamlets Council to consider in-depth the impact its plans will have on deaf children’s lives and keep all Teachers of the Deaf in post.
It also wants the council to put families’ minds at rest by guaranteeing each child will still get the level of support they need.
Local parents have been quick to voice their fears and uncertainty over the council’s plans.
Husna Begum, whose son Hamza Islam, 9, is profoundly deaf, says he’s always been well supported, but that is now at risk.
“I’m really concerned that staff at his deaf support base will be taken away if these cuts go ahead. It will mean more strain on the staff and more strain on the children.
“I’m even more worried about what will happen when he goes to secondary school because the Teachers of the Deaf there will also be affected by the cuts. We’re looking at losing half of them and it’s so concerning.
“How many more times will the council try to rob our children with cuts to their future? It’s not the first time this has happened and I am pretty sure it won’t be the last.”
Nosira Begum’s son Aayan Majumdar, 10, is profoundly deaf and wears hearing aids. He has had support since birth from the service Tower Hamlets Council is proposing to cut.
“After he was born, we had home visits from a Teacher of the Deaf who would work with us to understand deafness and support me in audiology appointments. At pre-school, the same person helped him with communicating, sounds and language.
“At his mainstream school, he has access to a Teacher of the Deaf and he’s reaching his potential because he settled in at the beginning of his education. If this support is taken away, I worry about his future. What will that look like when he attends secondary school?
“I am very worried about the future of deaf children. I do feel that the next cohort will be born and not get the same level of support. It is always our deaf children that are targeted every time the council wants to save money or make cuts.”
Hazel Badjie, a campaigner at the National Deaf Children’s Society who is working with families across Tower Hamlets, said:
“Parents in Tower Hamlets are saying their deaf children thrive on the support they get and it’s setting them up to succeed both at school and after they leave.
“However, rather than maintaining it and giving deaf children the best chance in life, Tower Hamlets Council is targeting the specialist teachers they rely on.
“Teachers of the Deaf play a vital role in a deaf child’s life, offering them crucial one-on-one support, monitoring their hearing technology and supporting them through school. They also provide schools and teachers with expert advice on how to educate a deaf child, but this could now be taken away.
“Tower Hamlets Council has a clear choice to make – put minds are rest by guaranteeing the support deaf children rely on, or show the whole borough that it’s willing to sacrifice deaf children’s futures to balance the books.”