Deaf children are lagging behind their hearing classmates, with six in 10 pupils still failing to achieve the governmentâ€™s GCSE benchmark, according to figures published on Thursday.
GCSE attainment among deaf pupils in England improved last year, with 41.1% achieving five GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths, up from 36.3% the previous year. However, the attainment gap between deaf and hearing children remains alarming, campaigners say; 58.9% of deaf students failed to get five good GCSEs in last summerâ€™s exams, compared with 35.8% of hearing children with no special educational need.
The figures echo broader concern about the governmentâ€™s record on educational achievement among disadvantaged pupils, after it emerged that the attainment gap between those on free school meals and their wealthier classmates had widened. According to Labour, the gap has grown for the third consecutive year and is now bigger than when David Cameron took office in 2010.
A Guardian report earlier this month revealed growing concern about underachievement in deaf education, at a time when special schools are closing and the number of specialist teachers for the deaf is in decline.
A report by the National Deaf Childrenâ€™s Society (NDCS) on behalf of the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (CRIDE) revealed a 4% drop in the numbers of qualified teachers of the deaf in the last five years; the number of deaf children has gone up by 2% in the last year.
The CRIDE report also suggests that many deaf children remain invisible within the system â€“ the governmentâ€™s school census under-recorded the number of deaf children, it says, missing 42% of those identified by CRIDE.
Susan Daniels, NDCS chief executive, said: â€œToo many deaf children do not get the specialist support they need in the classroom. Deafness is not a learning disability and there is no reason why most deaf children should not be performing as well as their hearing peers.
On deaf children missing from the school census, she said: â€œUltimately, this raises real fears about whether these children are getting the support they need. The government urgently needs to start taking responsibility and ensure that all deaf children have access to high quality education support that will allow them to thrive.â€
The Department for Education said: â€œWe are determined to deliver educational excellence everywhere, raising the bar for all so that every child, regardless of background, reaches their potential.â€