The Next 30 Years: An intentional exclusion of special education By John Walker

The 30 years of battles between the local education authority and the parents: a legacy.

Department of Education and Sciences, statement to supply and training teachers of the deaf (January 24, 1977: National Archives)

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Correspondence to Dr. Thomas J. Watson of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf.

"Dear Dr. Watson

"I am very sorry that you have not had an earlier reply to your letter of 28 October in which you invited my comments on the future employment prospects of teachers of the deaf, especially as even now I cannot tell you anything very helpful. This not because of unwillingness to do so; there are a number of factors affecting the situation which make predictions which are likely to prove accurate extremely difficult.

"Two such factors are the falling school populations and improvements over recent years in medical services which will mean reduction in the number of hearing impaired children needing some form of special education. Now we have the recent legislation (clause 10 of the 1976 Education Act) which provides that handicapped pupils are to be educated in county and voluntary (i.e. "ordinary" schools) in preference to special schools unless this would be impracticable, against the educational interests of the children (both handicapped and non-handicapped) or involve unreasonable public expenditure. Although the new clause does not come into effect until a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State, it is clearly relevant both to future provision for hearing impaired children in special schools and to the training needs of teachers of handicapped children in ordinary schools.

"Alongside these uncertainties, there are current economic constraints which you mentioned as likely to affect expansion of services. We do not, for example, know what effect the need for economy locally will in the short-term have on peripatetic services which have been building up quite steadily over the years and would doubtless have continued to do so. In 1975, a quarter of the qualified teachers of the deaf were employed in this field which is a significant proportion.

You mentioned also the Diploma of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf which is, as you will know, to be replaced by a similar course run by the new British Association of Teachers of the Deaf from 1976.  We are still awaiting course details for approval but, meanwhile, the Examination Board of BATOD has agreed that the number of candidates should be restricted to ensure efficient examination. I cannot say more than that at present but I appreciate your concern about the effect in the current situation of a build up of in-service training on the employment of new entrants and newly qualified teachers from the one year full-time course.

"Because of my delay in replying, you may already have settled your student intake for 1977-78. If not, I can only suggest you concentrate on students who are clearly well qualified, looking even more critically than usual at the borderline cases. It might also be advisable to discourage those who are not prepared to be mobile unless they have a post to return to.

"I am very sorry that I cannot be more helpful and that I seem to have dwelt on the problems rather than offer constructive guidance. We are looking afresh at the training provision in the light of recent developments but that does not help in your immediate difficulty.

"Yours sincerely, Miss M S Hardwick."

A shift from educational to economic decisions

In the process to establish a mainstream education provision, deaf children were statemented to detail what services they required. At the time of the Warnock Report, it was hoped that the statement would reflect the educational needs of the child, but the person, from the local education authority, who assessed the child's needs was also the budget holder. Parents, and their children, were persuaded to consider cheaper options and refrain from considering expensive options, such as specialist, residential education.

During the life of a deaf child's education, the parent would attend a tribunal hearing as many as 30 times. This trend persisted for the next 30 years. This ongoing pressure created a response from the National Deaf Children's Society, which established an 'informed choice' policy, as an attempt to return the 'ability to choose' back to the parents.

This page was added on 26/09/2012.

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