Joined: Jun. 01
There is no more important issue in the Deaf world than the education of Deaf children -
ever since the Milan Conference 1880 Deaf children have not had a fair deal.
Again and again the Deaf media proclaim that most Deaf children leave school with a literacy age of
8/9 years (if they are lucky!) many are below this level. There has been no change since the
beginning of the last century when Oralism was introduced and sign language was forbidden.
The black cloud of Oralism has now been replaced by "integration" and "inclusion" both introduced
by the Warnock Report which led to the closure of most of the Special Schools for Deaf children.
About 97% of our Deaf children are now in Mainstream schools - and the shackles of illiteracy
remain - the majority leaving at 16 with the same 8/9 year of literacy level.
No improvement for 100 years - this is a serious indictment of our education system and, surely, not
a statistic we can be proud of, and there is no way that the so-called "professionals" and "experts"
can justify the situation. They can and do argue intellectually about the benefits of mainstreaming but
they cannot get away from this inescapable fact of the low literacy level of Deaf school leavers.
Deaf children struggle at mainstream where they receive peripatetic teaching with mixed levels of
communication support and, where BSL is not a core subject.
The methods of education vary, with much importance attached to parental choice, which is
invariably influenced by the "professionals" with closed minds and vested interests in the status quo.
I attended a lecture last year given by a prominent member of the Ewing Foundation who declared
"..teachers of the Deaf do not teach the Deaf anymore - they train normal teachers to teach the
There seems to be no consensus of opinion between the Deaf Organisations with regard to the
method of teaching that will achieve the desired result of maximum literacy and this, unfortunately,
could allow the Government to use it as an excuse for inaction.
Urgent Government sponsored action is essential - if this situation applied to any other minority
group there would be an outcry - there should be a Public Enquiry for a thorough, independent and
unbiased investigation based on the results of monitoring the exam results of Profoundly Deaf school
leavers, which will, without doubt, reveal the true situation of the discrimination and injustice inflicted
on our Deaf children, and the time is long overdue for this to be put to rights.
Mainstreaming has failed our Deaf children - Special Schools for Deaf Children should be
established - based on Bi-ligualism - with staff who are Deaf themselves, well educated and fully
qualified. The rule that Deaf teachers must serve 2 years teaching hearing children before they are
allowed to teach Deaf children should be abolished.
It will be difficult to find these teachers with the existing literacy level of school leavers which makes
the necessary action even more urgent.
I sincerely hope that this subject will be fully discussed and debated at the Deafhood Conference - it
will be very interesting to hear the views of other people.