Parents of deaf pupils at London school stage protest over cuts | Deafness and hearing loss

Parents of deaf pupils at London school stage protest over cuts | Deafness and hearing loss

Parents of deaf pupils have staged a protest over planned cuts at their north London primary school, which they say will target the most vulnerable children and disproportionately affect their education.

Laycock primary in Islington is a mainstream school with a specialist unit that attracts pupils from across the capital.

With costs rising and enrolment falling, the school is trying to find savings, and parents say proposed cuts are being targeted at deaf provision, with key specialist roles likely to be axed.

Martin Thacker, the deputy director for local engagement at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), said: “This is a potentially devastating blow for the deaf children attending this school, as well as those who may attend in the future.

“If schools are prioritising balancing the books over providing deaf children with the support they need, something has gone very wrong. It’s vital that deaf children and young people get the support they need in school. Without it, they risk falling further behind their peers, left to struggle on alone.”

Specialist support for deaf children and their families has fallen to its lowest level in England in more than a decade – the result of a sustained pattern of budget cuts, according to the NDCS.

A report, published by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), shows one in five qualified teachers of the deaf posts in England have been lost since 2012, with nearly four in 10 councils seeing a decrease over the past year. Of those that survive, more than half are over 50.

Sixty-four deaf children attend Laycock, of whom more than half have additional needs. The school’s specialist deaf unit is staffed by highly specialised teachers, supported by higher-level teaching assistants, and is led by Sue Brownson, who has been head of the deaf provision at Laycock for 32 years.

According to parents, plans under consultation include reducing the number of senior roles in deaf provision from three to one, and replacing higher-level teaching assistants with non-specialist teaching assistants.

Parents have also pushed back against proposals to integrate deaf children from years 4 to 6 into mainstream classes every afternoon. Currently, deaf pupils are taught separately in small groups of up to 10 by a specialist teacher, and they are integrated into mainstream classes only when they are ready.

Dan Turner, whose daughter Shoshana is in reception, said: “When I found out my four-year-old daughter was deaf, I thought I’d won the jackpot after hearing about the specialist deaf provision at Laycock, which has been around since the 70s, is the leading deaf provision in the country and is a shining example of specialist teaching for disabled kids.

“It offered us a lifeline and gave us confidence that Shoshie would get the same start in life as her hearing peers. The intake in the mainstream school is falling but instead of making deep cuts there, the current headteacher, Amy Lazarczyk, supported by the governors, has taken a hatchet to the deaf provision.”

Another parent, Giulia Bove, said: “It’s alarming that the people who are supposed to oversee our deaf kids’ education have chosen to pick on the most vulnerable kids in the school, the kids who are already marginalised, and we will not allow these changes to take place.”

An Islington council spokesperson said Laycock, like many schools across the country, was responding to financial pressures. “The current consultation with staff has been agreed by the governing body, and all feedback will be carefully considered. Once the consultation has concluded, parents and guardians will be contacted by the school to inform them of their decisions.”

The consultation with staff has been extended to 20 January to allow sufficient time to provide feedback. Parents will be invited to a meeting where they can give their views and a working group has been set up including deaf specialists and service users to “ensure high-quality education continues to be provided”.

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