North Wales MS and Chair of the Senedd’s Cross Party Groups on Disability and on Deaf Issues, has again raised concerns that falling numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, and other issues with the Welsh Government's Additional Learning Needs (ALN) reforms, is hindering deaf pupils.
Mr Isherwood raised the matter in this afternoon’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament when questioning the Minister for Social Justice over how the Welsh Government ensures that the Equality Act 2010 is implemented to benefit disabled people in Wales.
In the Senedd last year, he emphasised the need for a strategy to recruit specialist staff to meet the needs of deaf children and warned that without such action deaf children will lag behind.
In today’s meeting, he expressed concern that the needs of deaf children in schools are still not being met.
Mr Isherwood, who Shadows the Social Justice Minister, said:
“The Equality Act states that Direct Discrimination occurs when people with protected characteristics, including Disability, are treated less favourably than others.
“The National Deaf Children's Society Cymru has warned that falling numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, and other issues with the Welsh Government's Additional Learning Needs reforms, is hindering deaf pupils. I raised this with you when responding to your 5th December Statement on the ‘International Day of Disabled People’, but your reply didn't address this.
“When I had raised this with the Education Minister, he highlighted the investment, over the past three years, to support postgraduate training for local-authority-based teachers of learners with sensory impairment. The National Deaf Children's Society therefore spoke to the services on the ground, which told them that this is being used to keep the level of the Teachers of the Deaf Workforce the same, as opposed to expanding it, although one in five have left the profession since 2011.
“They were also told that some of the funding was more targeted at ALN Co-ordinators and school staff to help build deaf awareness rather than extend provision, which does not provide the scope to fully grow the profession nor support deaf children in Wales.
“So, what measurable action do you propose to address this, where deafness is not a learning difficulty, but deaf children are being disabled by the continuing inequity in outcome, and where the gap between deaf children and their hearing peers risks becoming even wider, in breach of the Equality Act?”
In her response, the Minister, Jane Hutt MS, said:
“There are ongoing discussions and scrutiny about the needs of deaf children in education and additional learning needs. So, I will make sure that I take this back to the Disability Rights Taskforce's Children and Young People's Work Stream - this is underway.”