Ben Bradshaw

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Question on Support for Deaf Children

At a Backbench Business Debate on 17th October on support for deaf children and young people, I asked about sign language provision.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Before the right hon. Gentleman moves away from the subject of sign language, is he aware of the problems faced by people such as my constituent Rachel Goswell? She has a profoundly deaf son, Jesse, and the only way of communicating with him will be to learn sign language herself. There is no support locally for parents to learn sign language. Does he agree that that and the training of educationalists at a local level cannot be left to a postcode lottery? There must be national guidelines so that everyone in England gets the same level of support.

Sir Malcolm Bruce: I am extremely grateful for that intervention, because my speech will make that point powerfully. There has been some progress from the previous and present Governments, but there has not yet been enough. That is a powerful point that I hope the Minister and other Ministers will take on board. It is estimated that there are 45,000 deaf children in the UK, but no one actually knows how many there are. There is no systematic collection of statistics or data on deaf children, and that is a problem in itself. As we increasingly mainstream deaf children, they become less visible and can also be socially isolated, particularly if they are the only deaf child in the school. There is evidence that they might be bullied, they might suffer depression and not all of them thrive. I am not against mainstreaming in principle, but I believe that some profoundly and severely deaf children will make better progress in a school resourced properly and dedicated to their needs. Schools such as Heathlands in St Albans and Frank Barnes, which serves London, offer impressive education for deaf children but such schools are not found everywhere in the country.

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