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Parliament: Deaf Parents Access to their Children's Education


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?

They Work For You

Comments (6)

Before you zero this ! at least pass the info on to those who may find it useful ! Been there done that. I was only refused once access to my son's school, I took it straight to my AM and MP and LEA, and they backed off, I can get support any time to my son's school, I can only assume other deaf parents otherwise are not demanding their rights, I have a copy of the welsh directive on this, it states categorically BSL: using deaf can have back up to the child's education at ANY Age.

I was staggered Mr and Mrs Moon weren't aware to be honest. Is Wales ahead of English LEA access or what ? The niggle was the LEA and SS not working together, that was the stumbling block, I threatened both with court action.

Child social workers ARE an issue, they cannot separate child support from parental access rights. They have conflict of interest. it may NOT be in a deaf parents best position to use a SS support worker for your child in this issue at all, it is NOT SS responsibility to provide a parent with access, or to even ask for it for you, this was established.

I cut out the middle men and went straight to the LEA, my social worker was censured (Removed in fact !), for being thick basically and obstructive. I can get support any time I need it, even to watch school sports, the right IS enshrined in the DDA access laws, someone can't read obviously.

Want a photo copy of my right printed out,You can have that too, I cannot understand why deaf parents are having problems frankly, I only ever had it once. Just one point why doesn't the BSL deaf parents site WORK ? I told them this they obviously didn't read it.

I have one question. Why are we seeing no sign of this strategy rolling out at local government levels to promote and enhance parent inclusion at the early years and school stages. Our council is certainly not done anything about it. No one is interested in deaf parents but there are plenty of council's resources and personnel being expended on deaf children whereas 95% of the parents are hearing and have no problem with accessing the mainstream provisions. It is silly for the deaf child to have this amount of resources and support in the formative years and then find the resources have dwindled once he/she hit adulthood.

What strategy ? the DDA is quite clear BSL parents are entitled to access their child's education and school, I established that right 12 HOURS after the DDA (1995) was enacted. I was the first in Wales to do this. There is definitely conflict, and NO Liaison between LEA's, or the schools itself in parental terms, as their sole remit is the CHILD. Parents get stuck in the middle and unsure who to demand access from, even my son's school said it was nothing to do with them.

My issue was my son's school,was OUT of the LEA area, the service provision covering the school area would NOT support me because of that, BUT, when my son used to attend local schools they DID provide BSL access, and note taking for me as well. As my LEA placed my son in a special school and pays for that, thus they have to pay for our access to it as well.

IN order to save money the LEA's, it is THEIR primary responsibility to provide mum and dad with access, tried to water down my support by stating what was 'Important' and vital that I attended the school for ! Again the DDA (1995), states NO RESTRICTIONS as to if or when they can decide what is relevant, in regards to parents wanting a school visit, it does NOT just have to be for annual assessments, but any time a school will ask a parent to attend for whatever reason, the deaf right, is the same as a hearing parental one, they can go anytime and talk to the school, so can we.

It has to be said not all LEA's are the same, this is mainly down not to discrepancies in the law, but, LEA ignorance and deaf not pushing hard enough. They don't mess ME about, I am wondering if many of these deaf a parents are just simply ignorant of their rights ? I feel sure the 'Government' response will say the same as me, the right is already there...

@MM - kudos for you for having the inner knowledge of DDA and exercising your rights - not many have the same confidence as you in using this legislature to exercise their rights.

This is my point - you shouldn't have to run the gauntlet, threatening legal action, to get the services you need. What I am moaning about is the complete inaction of the councils, in getting to consult with the deaf parents and anticipate their requirements. They should liaise with local groups, social services to reach out to those who they need to get in touch with. Neither is coming forward to make that bridge. As always, it befall on the deaf parents to kick the council's asses in touch. This kind of information, about what their rights are, should be getting out to other parents who don't access the internet in the same way as we do. OK, they are making 2 BSL videos....then what? How are they ensuring it will reach out to new parents? I am struggling to see the benefit of these educational videos because they rarely reach the intended audience - Deaf people want a real person they can talk to. This is one advantage of having Deaf family groups - a place where they can share and disseminate information in a deaf environment. However, these groups depend on the drive and dedication of deaf parents who have to volunteer their time to run such group, top of their other commitments. Whereas, deaf children get an army of paid professionals to provide the service daily to hearing parents. This is too much of a gulf and yes, too much emphasis is place on the child, ignoring the parents' needs.

I simply saw I needed access for me and my partner, and asked for it. I cannot thus get my head around BSL groups and questions in Parliament, as apart from a blip once or twice, I have had no difficulty getting that access. Probalems are occuring because the deaf community no longer has an effective campaigning body, they have taken the eye off the access ball to talk politics, post useless online petitions, and PC terms instead. SEE HEAR also shows us that deaf are not able to access job centres, my local gripe is access tohealth support, GP's are still fighting us. Not so easy there as the NHS is warring with itself. The writing is on the wall deaf need to wake up to the problem of access going downhill, and not up where it counts. We are not campaigning for the right things.

Who pays for BSL interpreters for Deaf Parents who need access to their child's school, e.g. assemblies, parent's evenings, parent programmes? It is not clear in the LEA - and schools are asking who should be providing this services.

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