Mum’s plea to keep teachers for deaf

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THE concerns of almost 5,000 people have persuaded councillors to review proposals to reduce the number of teachers supporting deaf children in Kirklees.

A mother of two deaf children made a heart-felt plea as she presented Kirklees councillors with a 4,470 name petition at a full council meeting.

Jayne Fenton is also the chairwoman of the Kirklees Deaf Children’s Society and she spoke about how vital teachers of the deaf were, not only to her, but to children across Kirklees.

Kirklees Council had proposed reducing the number of Teachers of the Deaf posts, but said that level of staffing would ‘still comfortably meet the need in Kirklees.’

A spokeswoman said demand for the service had fallen and the number of posts would be reduced from 10.3 to 6.5.

She added: “The number of places is being reduced to reflect the fall in demand and it is logical.”

Ms Fenton presented the petition to a meeting of the full council in Huddersfield last Wednesday.

She said most parents of children with special educational needs agreed with a council report encouraging pupils to attend mainstream schools, and spoke about how vital the support of teachers of the deaf was to achieve that.

“I actively wanted my children to go to the local mainstream nursery in school, because it meant they could attend with children who lived in their local community and could build strong friendships with people who lived around them.

“This was only possible with the help and support of a teacher of the deaf who gave me the necessary support in the early years before my children went to school,” said Ms Fenton.

She said teachers of the deaf worked with school teachers and other pupils to help them communicate with deaf children, helped deaf children develop confidence and social skills and provided vital support to parents.

Deaf children are either taught in separately in ‘units’ or can attend mainstream classes.

Ms Fenton said: “I recognise that there are falling numbers of deaf children in units, however these does not mean that there are fewer deaf children in need of support, it does there are more deaf children in mainstream schools who need outreach support, and this is where our concerns lie.”

She said around 235 children relied on the outreach service, but the council report suggesting a reduction of the number of teachers of the deaf failed to look at this.

Responding to the petition, the cabinet member for children’s services Coun Peter O’Neill said that the council would make sure it met recommended levels of support for deaf children.