Deaf EXperience


Supporting a Deaf Child

Types of educational placements

Deaf school

Most Deaf schools are British Sign Language (BSL) medium schools, which means the curriculum is mainly in sign language, or Sign Supported English. Some parents opt for Deaf schools as they want a Deaf cultural and linguistic experience for their deaf child. Also, deaf children with additional needs are often placed in Deaf schools. Deaf schools can be day or residential.

Resourced Mainstream School

The Resourced Mainstream School, sometimes called Units, is where there are other deaf children (though there may only be one or two per Year group) and there is specialist staff and equipment. The Resourced school usually teaches BSL and/or provide the curriculum in BSL. Some Resourced schools only teach in English and do not teach BSL. Usually only profoundly deaf children are offered this placement.

Mainstream School

The deaf child’s local mainstream school is where most are placed, and they are likely to be the only deaf child in the school. Or if there happens to be more, usually there is no effort made to support deaf children’s learning or breaktimes together.

The level of input from the Hearing Impaired Support Service (HISS) differs significantly from one local authority to another, and from one deaf child to another. Support can range from no contact from the HISS, to My Support Plan meetings with a peripetetic Teacher of Deaf involved with other key workers in the Plan. The range of provision can extend to weekly tuition from a Teacher of Deaf children, or a full time or part-time teaching assistant.

Alternatively deaf children may have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) but it only usually given for those with more significant hearing losses. This is reviewed regularly but you can ask for this to be done if you have any concerns.  If this is not granted, or an EHC Plan has been refused, an appeal can be lodged – see procedure below.

If parents would like their deaf child to learn British Sign Language there must be an EHCP issued in order to attend a resourced mainstream school or a Deaf School. There is no other language in the western world, at least, that we know of where a medical assessment must be made in order that a child can be able to learn it.

My Support Plan

Local authorities (LA) are using the My Support Plan as a replacement for EHCPs in mainstream schools and a child has to ‘prove’ their need for an EHCP by first going through a My Support Plan procedure.

These changes all stem from the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014. If the criteria required for an EHCP are met then an EHCP should be issued. Issuing an alternative, non-statutory document is unlawful. Many deaf and hard of hearing children do not have SEN support in schools that is planned and documented.

The four stages of SEN support are

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Do
  • Review.

Assess: The deaf child’s difficulties must be assessed so that the right support can be provided. This should include, for example, asking parents what you think, talking to professionals who work with your child (such as their teacher), and looking at records and other information. This needs to be reviewed regularly so that the support provided continues to meet deaf children’s needs.

That might mean getting advice and further assessment from someone like an educational psychologist, a specialist teacher or a health professional.

Plan: The school or other setting needs to agree, with families’ involvement, the outcomes that the SEN support is intended to achieve – how the deaf child will benefit from any support they get. All those involved will need to have a say in deciding what kind of support will be provided, and decide a date by which they will review this so that they can check to see how well the support is working and whether the outcomes have been or are being achieved.

Do: The setting will put the planned support into place. The teacher remains responsible for working with your child on a daily basis, but the SENCO and any support staff or specialist teaching staff involved in providing support should work closely to track deaf children’s progress and check that the support is being effective.

Review: The support received should be reviewed at the time agreed in the plan. Families and the deaf child or young person can then decide together if the support is having a positive impact, whether the outcomes have been, or are being, achieved and if or how any changes should be made.

Schools or other settings can use the Local Offer (see section in Gov. UKs guide, The Local Offer) to see what help is available that may help achieve deaf children’s outcomes:

Advice template (

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

We have been given kind permission by Education Advocacy Ltd to provide parents with an overview of the Education Health and Care Plan process. The Education Advocacy Ltd is a legal organisation that supports families with the ECHP procedure. If you would like general information please contact us via our contact page. Or Education Advocacy Ltd can help you with more specialist support:

contact page

web site: www.educationadvocacy

The models for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland differ.

Why should deaf children have an EHCP?

Here are a few reasons why DEX thinks you would want to consider the EHCP process:

  • It is a legal document which must be complied with unlike other SEN support. An EHCP gives your deaf child the individual support they need to meet their SEN, going beyond what the school can offer and providing additional resources to improve the quality of their learning experience.
  • They should not have to try to “fit” into the school environment for even powerful hearing aids and cochlear and titanium implants cannot be a substitute for normal hearing. Schools are communal and deaf children are in group situations in classrooms, assemblies, gyms and school fields and at breaktimes all day long. Groups are the most difficult situations for deaf people to cope without support, with too many people to lipread and noisy backgrounds which make it hard to hear even with aids and teaching support. Many schools are not aware of deaf children’s needs and are likely to take the cheapest and easiest approach for “inclusion”.
  • Take a look at the Video made for parents of deaf children by the DEX Deaf Youth Council – it is their own script and filming format and they have stressed how hard it is to lipread all day long, with much information missed (70%) as it relies on guesswork. All of our members have said they are glad they were able to learn BSL, but we have deaf young people in their late teens or early twenties joining who are unable to sign and have to rely on BSL/English interpreters to be able to make deaf friends. This is an important part of deaf identity development as all humans need to feel they belong to similar people.
  • For families of deaf children and young people to use BSL they must request an EHCP in order that their child and the family can learn BSL.
  • The EHCP states the provision that a deaf child needs and that has to be provided regardless of any LA funding issues.
  • An EHCP names a school which can include a specialist resourced mainstream school, or a residential school if parents would like this.
  • The EHCP is a legally binding document that gives assurances about deaf children’s education and offers them a great chance for a brighter future. If the EHCP says it is going to do something, then it must be provided.  The EHCP is enforceable through Judicial Review.,
  • The EHCP lasts until your child finishes education or turns 25, whichever comes first, although it does not cover universities. It does cover FE Colleges and apprenticeships.


If you need to move home the EHCP will transfer to the new LA. Within 6 weeks of arriving in the LA area, they will review the plan and consider if it needs to be maintained or amended. You will have fresh appeal rights following any changes by the LA.

Schools in England must provide support to children with special educational needs (SEN) as part of their standard offer to children. Schools are said to have £6000 of national funding within their existing budgets to support children at the SEND Support level.

An EHC plan is a legally-binding document outlining a child (0-16) or young people (16-19) or adult’s (19-25) special educational, health, and social care needs, which lists all of their special educational needs, provision to meet each of the needs and that provision has to be specific, detailed, and quantified. The plan names the school/setting which is to provide the provision and the plan is legally enforceable ultimately through Judicial Review.

A child who has educational needs may also have additional health and social care needs and those can be included in the plan so long as they relate to education.

EHCP application process

Phase one: EHCP Assessment Application

A written request can be made by:

  • The parents
  • The school
  • An interested party
  • A paediatrician
  • A social worker

The Local Authority then has 6 weeks from the date of the request to make a decision on whether to assess the child or not.

Where the LA has declined to make the assessment, it is possible to lodge an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST or the “Tribunal”). Education Advocacy Ltd states it would expect LAs to concede before the case gets to Tribunal. Parents do not have to physically attend Tribunal hearings.

Phase two: LA decides on issuing an EHCP

After an assessment, the Local Authority must decide whether to issue the EHCP or not:

  1. The LA agrees to issue the EHCP and they then have up to 12 weeks from the date of the EHC assessment agreement to issue the Draft EHCP and a further 2 weeks to issue the final plan making 20 weeks in total.
  2. The LA refuses to issue the EHCP and they must inform you of this decision within 10 weeks of the date of the EHC assessment decision was made.

In the case of option 2, when the LA refuse to issue an EHCP parents can appeal to SENDIST:  this appeal is as a Refusal to Issue an EHCP Appeal and families’ attendance is required.

Why are some EHC needs assessments rejected?  

The local authority may decide not to give additional support to young students. The most common are:

  • A lack of diagnosis on the special educational needs of the individual
  • No report from an educational psychologist
  • The child is not considered to be far enough behind their fellow students
  • The LA enforce their policy provision matrix – e.g. attainment not below the 2nd percentile and therefore not bad enough for an EHCP. Such a blanket policy is likely to be illegal.

Once in Tribunal, these arguments tend to fail as they are based on local authority policy rather than the law. This means that, based on that case, there is no legal basis to deny an EHCP. The Tribunal will decide the facts of the case including looking at the child’s individual needs and decide based on the law. The Tribunal ignores LA policy.

Phase three: The Education, Health & Care Plan

Parents will receive a draft EHCP, they have 15 days to comment on and request revisions. The Draft EHCP will not name the school. The accompanying letter will normally identify the school the LA is suggesting they will name. Once any potential changes are made or comments are resolved, the EHCP is finalised.

There is a danger here in that LAs frequently seek to extend this period by entering negotiations and stretch the time in which they have to pay for any provision.

The EHCP amendment and appeal process

If parents consider that their deaf child’s support is not adequate they can appeal to the Tribunal: parental attendance will be physically required for hearings. Children under 16 are not expected to attend, whilst young people over 16 are encouraged to attend. The Tribunal usually lasts for 1 day and parents are advised by DEX and Education Advocacy Ltd that you bring an Advocate, and supportive staff as a witness, or a representative from your preferred school (if there is a disagreement over which school is named).

What are the reasons for LAs’ rejection?

The core reasons for the rejection of parental requests have almost always been linked to finance. Since 2015, there has been a 17% reduction in funding from the government, whilst the demand for EHC plans has gone up 35%. Local authorities are severely underfunded, to the tune of billions of pounds, but this does not remove their duty to individuals who need support.

What does an EHC plan look like?

The physical delivery of an EHC plan will differ from local authority to local authority:

  • Section A: the views, interests and aspirations of the child and their parents, or the young person;
  • Section B: the child or young person’s special educational needs (SEN)
  • Section C: the health care needs which relate to their SEN
  • Section D: the social care needs which relate to their SEN or a disability
  • Section E: the outcomes sought for the child or young person
  • Section F: the special educational provisions required to meet their SEN
  • Section G: any health care provisions reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN
  • Section H: social care provisions required by social services under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and/or reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN
  • Section I: the name of the school or institution to be attended by the child or young person, and the type of institution
  • Section J: details of any direct payment which will be made
  • Section K: copies of all of the advice and information obtained as part of the EHC needs assessment

Please refer to Education Advocacy Ltd’s website for more detailed information:


It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that the provision named in the EHCP takes place. It is not the responsibility of the school.

Parents can enforce the EHCP/ provision through Judicial Review.


Annual Review of the EHCP

This takes place once a year as a minimum and based on this review, the local authority may take one of three actions:

  • Leave the EHCP unchanged and continue as before
  • End the EHCP
  • Make alterations to the plan

The review involves all three parties: the parents, the school/college, and the local authority. The reviews are usually done annually at the school or college and give an opportunity to the parents to raise any complaints. It also looks at whether the support is suitable for the needs of the student for the following year, and whether revisions could result in better progress. The school review report must be served on the LA within 10 days of the school meeting. The LA have a month to make its decision which gives appeal rights to the Tribunal.

Cease to Maintain

The LA make seek to Cease to Maintain (stop) the EHCP.  Normally when the progress has been such that the child no longer needs the support of the EHCP.  Most decisions to cease to maintain are ill-founded and for the most part not lawful.

The EHCP can be transferred onto FE or an apprenticeship. Neither are grounds to Cease to Maintain.

You have a right to appeal against a decision to cease to maintain within 2 months of the date of issue of the LA decision.

Any provision must stay in place until the appeal has been heard by the Tribunal.


Parents or other family members can contact DEX to discuss their concerns. We have some knowledge about Tribunals so can support at first stage of appeal.

Education Advocacy staff have 35 years of experience in this highly specialized field. Use our knowledge and expertise to help you gain an EHCP for your child.


The Independent Parents’ Special Education Advice (IPSEA) website has more detailed information:

Find your local IAS service (

Download DEX’s PDF of the Literary Review: Research about hard of hearing children



You can also use this check list to help you decide on the right school for your deaf child or to assess your deaf child’s current school placement from time to time to make sure that your child is getting full support in education.

Tick which applies or answer questions in spaces below the questions:

1.These are the types of school placements currently available. If you are already thinking of the type you wish, which one applies?
a) Local mainstream state school
b) Academy
c) Private fee paying school
d) Resourced mainstream school (where there is a unit or base with support staff for deaf children)
e) Special Deaf school
f) Other special school
g) Dual placement – attends two of the above schools

2.Your deaf child should have a choice of languages in the school you choose – English and British Sign Language (BSL). If your child is Welsh, there should be three languages in the school (Welsh, English and BSL).
a) Which language(s) are used in the school?
b) If your home language is not English, does your school give additional support with English teaching to your deaf child?
c) Which other languages are used in your deaf child’s school?


3. Are deaf children taught via BSL? This is where the Communication Support Worker (CSW) interprets what classroom teachers and other pupils are saying into BSL. Also, if the deaf pupil is unable to speak or is too nervous to use their voice, the CSW can translate from BSL to English.

Does the school provide BSL medium teaching?

(a)        Yes

(b)        No

4. Deaf Instructors or BSL Tutors teach BSL to deaf pupils, and often to hearing pupils too. If the whole school learns BSL this can help your deaf child to feel included.

Does the school teach BSL? If yes, who learns BSL in the school:

(a)        deaf pupils

(b)        mainstream teachers or other staff

(c)        hearing pupils.

5. What BSL qualifications, if any, are taught and to what levels:

of NVQ levels
to GCSE level

6. All Support Staff, (CSWs, Teachers of Deaf, Teaching Assistants) should have a minimum of NVQ Level 3 BSL and be expected to improve to Level 6

If the school uses BSL, what qualifications do all the staff hold in BSL?


7. There should be a significantly sized group of deaf children in the school in order to develop BSL and English skills, choose a good friendship base and to develop a positive Deaf identity from them. There should be deaf children in each year group as this provides older deaf role models for your deaf child, and helps to develop wider BSL and social skills. 

(a) How many deaf children are there in your child’s school?
(b) in which year groups and classes?

8. Understanding deafness is important to enable hearing staff and pupils to understand deaf issues, and deaf pupils to understand their needs.

Does the school teach Deaf Studies, and to whom?

9. Support Services should provide training to families on the benefits of bilingual education and BSL training. Do you receive any training in BSL and Deaf issues from Deaf Instructors or BSL Tutors?

a) If so, how many hours’ tuition per week and for how many weeks?
b) Are you supported to more advanced levels?

DEX’s deaf-led research findings and our experience about deaf education

If you are thinking of placing your deaf child in a local mainstream school with no deaf peer group, or your child is already in this situation it is strongly advised that you reconsider this placement.

Deaf children should not rely solely on technical aids (hearing aids and cochlear or titanium implants) or English medium teaching and support, (teaching assistants). Technical aids do not provide full amplification to normal hearing levels and cannot eliminate background noise as normal hearing does. This means deaf pupils only receive partial information which greatly limits their ability to learn at the same rate as their hearing peers. With BSL input as well there is a greater chance of eliminating the gap in achievement and in being able to communicate with deaf and hearing peers. Classroom and other group situations, such as Assembly and break times, require English/BSL Communication Support Workers in addition to auditory aids.

Many deaf children are unable to use hearing aids because they would distort the residual hearing they have, or can affect their threshold of pain. It is a good idea for your deaf child to take off their hearing aids after lessons for a break from concentrating on listening and having to put up with distorted, and sometimes, too loud sounds.

If you would like to send your check list answers to DEX for our comments and support if required, please Contact Us


The term “Deaf identity” is often used in the Deaf community and is acknowledged by deaf adults as a good thing for deaf children to have. It must be hard for hearing people to grasp the importance of this concept, for a hearing cultural identity is acquired naturally from birth and is a major foundation for the psychological building blocks for children to develop their unique personal identities. Even before birth, hearing children hear and then learn the meaning of sounds, not only speech but environmental noise and even of silence. Belonging to a world of shared sounds makes for a common bond and allegiance, which every child must have in order to feel loved and valued. It is a basic human need, almost as important as water and food and the air we breathe. Research into identity development has found not having a sense of belonging can seriously damage children’s development, and it is a crucial human need to feel part of the family, school, friendships and the wider human society. This feeling of belonging leads us to become social animals and is the motivation for making relationships with our families and friends, and later, work colleagues. Language is one of the essential keys to cultural and personal identity. People construct their identities in the house of their language. Having a hearing identity, therefore, is paramount for hearing people.

A feeling of belonging is absolutely vital to human development.

For deaf children, attending school where there are deaf adults and deaf peers enables a strong sense of deaf identity. Deaf adults are found in schools which have specialist resources for deaf children, sometimes called bases, in mainstream schools, or in Deaf Schools. Since language is also a key factor in shaping all children’s identity, sign languages are an important indicator of being deaf.

A deaf child signed to us  :

I am happy because other deaf children are there signing and I am confident with hearing children.”

Another deaf child told us:

I sign because I am Deaf . I am deaf because I sign”.

Without this feeling of belonging to your own group, it is hard to know who you are. A deaf member of DEX said :

How can you be yourself, when you do not know who you are?”

Identity is a complex issue, but generally speaking, research has found that those who are in marginalised groups benefit from the support of others who share the same experiences:  “Identification with one’s marginalised group is an asset to one’s psychological well-being” : Michaelieu 1997; Walters and Simoni, 1993.

Those with stronger deaf identities (culturally deaf and bicultural individuals) have a somewhat higher self-esteem than those with weaker deaf identities (culturally hearing and negative identities)”. : Bat-Chava, 2000.


Without Deaf cultural input this results in what DEX calls “think-hearing identity” where deaf children can actually think they are hearing people. Usually all the children and adults in the deaf child’s life are hearing people, so she or he naturally wants to identify with them and model their behaviour on them. We have met deaf children who are upset when the term “hearing impaired” is explained to them, as they assumed that this meant they were “hearing”. For those deaf children who are moved to a resourced mainstream school to a Deaf school  the transition from think-hearing identity to a Deaf identity can be extremely painful and deeply traumatic as they may want to learn BSL immediately, but they realise this is a long learning curve for them. Deaf identity development is a highly complex area that needs sensitivity and real understanding. DEX has both personal and professional knowledge of the problems arising from a lack of positive self-concept, and the legacy this can leave into adulthood, affecting relationships, further education and employment. Research shows 61% of deaf mainstreamed children have mental health problems, and many have an underlying depression that is not detected by medical experts. Many are fearful of school, of not understanding the curriculum and homework instructions and of not being able to socialise or make genuine and lasting friendships.

For deaf children, much work is undertaken to encourage deaf children to fit into hearing communities, and this is important in order that deaf children can have a feeling of belonging to their hearing families and making friendships. Deaf children are assessed on how they communicate in acoustically controlled settings which do not mirror their school’s group settings (i.e. classroom, gym, school hall, playground etc) and this gives a false assessment of their ability to hear in educational environments.   The government’s philosophy of the assimilation of deaf children into mainstream schools and the drive for deaf children to have auditory aids in order to be integrated is a necessary part of the normalisation process. This is understandable and, in part, essential, in order that deaf children are socially included, but at the same time can never confer on deaf children a hearing identity, since they are not able to hear in the same way as hearing people can. Approximately 12% of deaf children have a profound hearing loss but only approximately 9% of all deaf children are learning to sign. This means that there are approximately 84% of deaf children who attend lone placements in mainstream school without other deaf peers or staff.

The danger of the current mainstreaming practice is that deaf children are likely to feel that they do not belong to either the hearing world or the Deaf community and so are in limbo and adrift. Deaf children in mainstream schools often are fearful and dread attending school, because of feelings of inadequacy with school work, or of being left out in the classroom or during break times.

In some cases there may be another deaf child in the same school but there could be too much of an age gap or a gender difference, or lack of real opportunity to meet, for a sense of shared experience to emerge. Some Support Services provide out-of-school clubs or occasional days of bringing together deaf children but this is insufficient for real and meaningful Deaf identity development.

For these reasons, DEX states that all deaf children should be bilingual, or multilingual, in spoken and sign languages. British Sign Language (BSL) is a natural language to deaf people in the UK, so all deaf children need to have exposure to it. This will enable bilingualism or multilingualism in spoken English and Welsh and BSL in order to have cultural pluralism and linguistic diversity. Research into bilingualism and multilingualism shows they confer many benefits, some of which are divergent thinking, wider choice of employment, and biculturalism. For bilingualism to develop, children need exposure to two sets of fluent language users and language peers regularly. The current position is that most hearing professionals working with deaf children only have conversational level BSL, which is seriously preventing deaf children from accessing the national curriculum and developing dominant language skills, and would not be acceptable in any other language used in schools. At the same time, teachers and non-teaching staff are often dedicated, and struggle against a lack of government funding which hinders continuing professional development or the recruitment of suitably qualified staff.

An essential requirement of parenting a deaf child is the full acceptance of who their deaf child is, bringing with it a sense of pride and value. There is not loss, but much to be gained.

DEX has collated anecdotal information from deaf ex-mainstreamers and also conducted our own Best Value Review, and a feasibility study into what services parents of deaf children and deaf young people would like to receive directly from Deaf professionals. Both studies are recorded in “Deaf Toolkit: Best Value Review of Deaf Children in Education, from Users’ Perspective” and “Handing on our Experience: Deaf participation with deaf young people and families”. For further information about the negative impact of think-hearing identity, see DEX’s book: “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: the deaf mainstream experience”.  See Publication page.

Other recommended reading is on bilingualism, i.e. Colin Baker’s “A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism” (2000) Clevedon; Multilingual Matters, or contact us for a reading list.

Deaf children in mainstream schools often are fearful and anxious about attending school, because of feelings of inadequacy with school work, or of being left out in the classroom or during break times. Social exclusion can take place in the whole school environment: class room and outside, break times, assemblies, sports lessons and clubs. It is particularly noticeable in any team activity and games.


Normalisation of deaf pupils in mainstream provision means not allowing deaf children to have the Deaf experience or to learn to be Deaf, and expecting deaf children to cope with, or without, hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Always calculate is the deaf experience of living in a hearing world, by lipreading and listening via aids which is hard work as using hearing aids and cochlear or titanium implants, and lipreading, are not the same as having “normal” hearing. There is a false myth that hearing aids or various forms and lipreading can replace hearing.

The daily struggle is like doing a mental crossword without pen and paper, as it requires having to calculate all the time, rather than just listening naturally as hearing people do. Although many deaf people make it look easy, it is actually a massive feat. Always calculate relies on the deaf person’s ability to learn spoken language. It is impossible to lipread words one does not know. All deaf children rely on lipreading to a certain extent, although they may not be aware of it. Lipreading is very rarely taught formally, so it is a skill that deaf people have to master on their own. The same applies to listening through aids, though in some cases this is taught, particularly for those who are implanted. This is one of the reasons that there can be good results from implantation.

However, it is our professional and researched experience that relying totally on aids to hearing is totally insufficient for deaf children

Gaps in educational attainment

Indirect communication- research has shown that all hearing children are exposed to information from birth, (the unwritten curriculum) which is eleven times that spent in the classroom. It is more than eleven times for deaf children who cannot access overheard or indirect communication fully and, therefore, do not have the exposure that hearing children have. This can significantly delay the learning process so that deaf children are starting school on an unequal basis to their hearing peers, missing out on a great deal of information that is normally heard on TV, films, gaming, group conversations, and the written word. They have to play catch up throughout their education to maintain a reasonable standard of education, which requires a great deal of concentration and hard work which is stressful and tiring.


Being bullied can make deaf children even more afraid, withdrawn or angry. Deaf mainstreamed children are vulnerable to bullying, since they are often not part of significant friendship groups and are not able to handle peer pressure. It is vitally important not to ignore any signs of bullying during the school day, outside the school or in taxis.

DEX has delivered successful training and planning to support schools and services by training:

  • deaf children how to deal with bullying, and in understanding their needs
  • hearing pupils, some of whom have been bullied, or are themselves bullies
  • staff on how to handle bullying and advising on schools’ bullying policy.

“Watch carefully, the magic that appears,
when you give a person just enough comfort to be themselves”.

If you would like to learn more about DEX please contact us.