arents are protesting proposed staffing cuts in the deaf provision at a north London primary school.
Parents and pupils held placards reading ‘save our deaf unit’ and ‘don’t make deaf kids pay’ outside Laycock Primary School in Islington on Tuesday in protest against cuts they believe “will have a devastating impact on the education of 64 deaf kids at the school and hundreds of kids in the future”.
The specialist provision caters for 64 children from nursery to year six. Thirty-eight of those 64 children have additional needs, as well as deafness, some with complex conditions.
The unit is staffed by specialised teachers and higher-level teaching assistants, and led by award-winning teacher Sue Brownson for 32 years.
But some senior roles could be removed under the plans and replaced with one assistant headteacher, a move supported by the school and Islington Council, parents claim.
Three HLTAs (specialists in teaching deaf children) are also reportedly proposed to be replaced by teaching assistants or agency staff.
Thirteen other local authorities are impacted by the cuts as children from other London boroughs attend Laycock primary to have access to the resources for deaf learners.
Parents say they are campaigning to stop the “devastating” staff cuts.
“Without access to the right level of support, deaf children face the prospect of lower academic achievement, lower employment and are at higher risk of poor mental health, bullying and social exclusion,” the group said in a statement.
Dan Turner, father of Shoshana Turner (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.
Students outside Laycock Primary School
/ Matt Crossick
“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.”
A petition launched by the parents on Islington Counci’s website said: “Under [Sue’s] guidance the school takes a reasoned and progressive approach to integrating deaf children into the mainstream school.
“There are plans to reduce staff numbers, particularly of the more experienced staff, in the deaf provision and to prematurely integrate deaf children into mainstream classes with no concern for their individual needs.
“The potential impact on the children’s educational, mental and emotional well-being does not appear to have been considered at all.”
The petition calls for a review to the proposed changes to staffing in the deaf provision, and for any staff changes to be halted until a full impact assessment has been conducted to establish the effects on deaf children at the school.
It has garnered 1040 signatures since it was created on December 9.
Martin Thacker, Deputy Director Local Engagement at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said this is a “potentially devastating blow” for the deaf children attending Laycock Primary.
“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.”
An Islington Council spokesperson told the Guardian: “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.”
Laycock Primary School has been approached for comment.
On its website the school said it aims “for all children to be confident in their own identity both as a deaf child and a member of specific communities.”
“All children have full access to the national curriculum which is differentiated to meet each child’s language and learning needs.”