Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset & North Poole, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
(1) what support is available from his Department to deaf parents and their families;
(2) what support is available from his Department to encourage deaf parents to participate in their children's education;
(3) what recent assessment he has made of his Department's performance against the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in respect of deaf parents and the education of their children.
Beverley Hughes (Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families; Stretford & Urmston, Labour)
The Government acknowledge the difficulties disabled parents, including deaf parents, face. The most recent assessment made by the Secretary of State on the Department for Children, Schools and Families' report on progress towards disability equality under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, was published in December 2008. It describes both what is happening within the DCSF to promote disability equality and what the entire sector is doing and how we are working together to achieve this.
In December 2008 DCSF published its first Secretary of State report on progress towards disability equality across the children's and education sector. Although there is no specific reference to deafness, or indeed other impairments with the exception of learning difficulties, this impairment is part of this report in as much as it is about disability and this of course comes within that definition.
In 2006 we asked each local authority to develop a parenting strategy within their children and young people's plan—these set out how the authority and its partners will make sure that parents get the services they need, including parents with disabilities. Most local authorities have developed strategies and have now moved into implementation.
To further support successful implementation of these strategies our parenting implementation project is working with 18 local authorities to test and develop new and innovative approaches to effective delivery of support services to parents and families. One of the project's work streams is considering the needs of parents with disabilities. The learning from the project will be shared with all local authorities in summer 2009.
We will continue to engage with stakeholders, including examining wider research relating to disabled parents' involvement in their children's education, to identify barriers to their effective engagement.
The Secretary of State's report on disability equality can be found at the Department's website:
DCSF's Single Equality Scheme can be found at:
With regard to services for parents, our Parent Know How Programme provides funding to a range of third sector partners to provide information and advice services for all parents. Within this ParentlinePlus provides a confidential textphone service for parents and carers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech impairment. It is available on 0800 783 6783 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As part of the ParentCast project we are preparing two videos targeted specifically at deaf parents—both are in British sign language (with an option for subtitles in English) which emphasise the need for deaf parents to have access to the same services as all other parents. The first video is about how two deaf parents got engaged in school activities and the second promotes the use of extended schools to deaf parents.
We encourage schools to use a range of ways to enhance the partnership with parents and carers, including advising schools to find out from parents what they would find helpful and what would encourage them to come into the school and participate at parents' evenings.
The Children's Plan, 2007, highlighted a partnership with parents as a 'unifying theme' across the whole plan and promised action on three fronts:
an enhanced dialogue between the school and parents;
parental involvement in school governance;
and an expansion of family learning opportunities.
We have promoted parental engagement in learning in other ways—for example, through encouraging parents and children to read together by providing free books to all families with young children through Bookstart, by improving access to information through Parent Know How, and by putting parent support advisers in place in many schools.
These measures have made a difference. Evidence shows that mothers and fathers now feel more involved in their child's school life—up from 29 per cent. in 2001 to 51 per cent. in 2007—and have an increasing appetite for involvement. But these figures also show that more can be done to bring parents centre stage in their child's learning.
To drive this forward, we proposed in The Children's Plan: Progress Report, published in December 2008, an approach which both empowers parents to engage and places parental engagement more centrally in the school and early years system. We made it clear that we will issue guidance to schools on working in partnership with parents and that that this guidance will cover how schools work with disabled, including deaf, parents.
Ask the Readers:
Are you a deaf parent? If so, do you think the above answer is satisfactory, or goes any way to solving your barriers? Or is the government way out of touch?