Scottish deaf children need better early years support

The National Deaf Childrens Society is calling on the Scottish Government and its partners to take action.
The National Deaf Childrens Society is calling on the Scottish Government and its partners to take action.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has published a report calling on the Scottish Government and its partners to take action to drive up the standard of early years support for deaf children and their families.

The ‘Getting It Right from the Start’ report, published today, highlights a stark attainment gap for deaf children and their hearing peers in Scotland – and the charity says effective early years support is critical to closing this.

The latest Scottish Government data shows that last year 11.8% of deaf learners left school with no qualifications (compared with 2.6% of all pupils).

While the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015) and national Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach have the potential to improve outcomes for deaf children and their families, the report shows there is still much to be done to ensure every deaf child in Scotland has the support needed to fulfil their potential.

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Manager for the National Deaf Children’s Society in Scotland, said: “Every child deserves the best start in life – but 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with no experience of deafness, so early years support is vital to empower families and create equity.

“Continued investment into crucial services for deaf children is vital. These services provide unique support for deaf children but are under increasing pressure in a challenging financial climate.

“We are calling for an improved, consistent approach across Scotland to deliver this support and ensure no deaf child is left behind. With the right support from the very start, deaf children can achieve just as much as their hearing peers.”

John Cunningham, from Glasgow parent of a nine-year-old deaf child said: “As a parent of a deaf child, I know how hard it can be when you are first told your child is deaf and you don’t understand the impact it will have. It is easy for parents to feel lost in those early years, which is why getting the right support for families from the very start is so important. My daughter, Hope is now nine years old and is a wonderful example of the fantastic things deaf children can achieve when they get the support they need.”

The report publication coincides with a week of activities in and around the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of issues facing deaf children, including a visit from the National Deaf Children’s Society Roadshow Bus on Wednesday, September 7, and a Parliamentary Reception led by young people and attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP.

This week also sees the launch of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Everyone Together Project, a Big Lottery funded initiative which will see targeted support and activity for deaf children and families across Scotland.