The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education


The organisation and management of LEA Educational services for hearing-impaired babies, children and young people, England and Wales


1 The Development of Services

The nature of hearing impairment impedes fluency and understanding in spoken communication. Its potentially disabling effect on the educational process was recognised very early in the development of educational systems. Consequently, children with significant degrees of hearing loss were one of the first groups of pupils with disabilities in the UK whose special educational needs were met by mandatory provision, and staffed by teachers with mandatory specialist training.

Since the 1930s there has been a rapid development in the field of audiology leading to early diagnosis, improved detection and measurement of hearing loss. At the same time there has been a huge amount of research into how language is acquired, leading to a more informed approach toward early and school-based intervention. Many Local Education Authorities, also influenced by pressure to improve 'integration' opportunities for children with special needs, responded to these developments by establishing locally based 'support services'.

Therefore, the majority of hearing-impaired children today are supported either in local mainstream schools or in special departments (eg units, resource bases). These 'departments' and 'services' continue to be staffed by appropriately trained Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs).

It is generally recognised that early intervention can make a significant difference to a hearing-impaired child's welfare and language development. Consequently the majority of LEAs employ qualified ToDs to work with the under-5s by supporting parents, offering advice, guidance and teaching as well as preparing the way for pre-school and mainstream education. Likewise, some LEAs, in conjunction with local Colleges of Further Education also make provision for post-16 students. In essence this allows for flexibility of response to need and to continuity of provision by informed practitioners.

There are, and have been, statutory requirements (1981 and 1993 Education Acts, and The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of SEN) for qualified ToDs to contribute to the multi-professional assessment of all hearing-impaired children whose needs are being assessed under the statementing process.

There has been support by all organisations concerned with the education of hearing-impaired pupils and students that legislation should be amended to make the specialist qualification mandatory for all teachers undertaking specialist teaching and/or assessment duties and/or guidance with hearing-impaired pupils/students and their families. Therefore the mandatory requirement would be extended to peripatetic teachers and not just for those working in special schools or units/resource bases.

2 Relationship with Special Schools

When services for hearing-impaired children were first established, they were generally regarded as complementing the work of special schools for the deaf and partially hearing, which catered for the majority of children with the more significant hearing losses, and who employed the majority of qualified ToDs. Over the last 30 years this ratio has changed and most ToDs are now employed outside special schools. Nevertheless, BATOD envisages that there will be a long term and important role for special schools for hearing-impaired pupils to meet specific needs within a continuum of provision, eg specific communication needs, deaf children with additional disabilities. However, it should be recognised that, nationally, the largest number of specialist ToDs will be required within LEA services, rather than in special schools.

3 Present Diversity of Provision

The present situation, where there are gross differences of provision, staffing and resources between different LEAs of comparable population, is a matter of very serious concern to all who are involved with the education of hearing-impaired pupils and students. The Government has made clear that wide diversities of provision and standards are quite unacceptable for school pupils generally and it must surely be doubly unacceptable for a group disadvantaged by such a severe disability as hearing impairment.

The recruitment and retention of teachers of the right calibre to improve the quality of delivery to children is also a matter of concern. At the present time with the continual reduction of LEA funds for centrally employed staff there is little opportunity for Service development and for individuals to perceive future possibilities for career advancement. It seems essential that ToDs and possible recruits to the profession see the value of their work recognised in a nationally accepted service structure.

Well-structured specialist services, with well qualified and knowledgeable teaching staff, are essential to the Government's drive towards making inclusive education a viable option for the majority of children with special educational needs.


For the purposes of this paper, the roles of Services have been considered under three headings.

Section 1: Specific Provision for Under-5s

Early audiological and linguistic assessment, provision of appropriate hearing aids, and effective liaison with families and the relevant medical services are all recognised as the most important factors in determining the subsequent educational attainment, and competency in communication, of hearing-impaired pupils. With the advent of neo-natal hearing screening, the involvement of qualified ToDs becomes even more crucial.

Clearly a specialist qualification should be mandatory for teachers within this field, with an expectation that further additional training will be undertaken. Continuing professional development for ToDs should be available and appropriately financed.

Therefore, when specialist Service provision is organised systematically, in line with the recommendations of this document, the overall cost effectiveness is undeniable.

Section 2: Advisory and Teaching Services for Pupils 5 to 16 years and Students 16 to 19 years

In these phases of education the work includes teaching, the devising of individual work programmes, and/or the assessment of pupils/students with a very wide range of hearing loss, including those whose hearing loss may be variable and/or intermittent and those with additional learning difficulties. Other ToD tasks involve advisory support and in-service training for mainstream teachers and lecturers, parent support and guidance, liaison with external agencies, the selection, maintenance and management of specialist equipment and completion of statutory documentation (eg multi-professional assessments).

The range and variety of the work, eg audiological and communicative competency, demands specialist training, and for those taking up senior posts, more advanced training is also crucial.

Section 3: Intensive Specialist Teaching for Pupils/Students who have extremely severe Communication Difficulties

A much smaller number of pupils than those identified in Section 2, but with very severe communication difficulties and perhaps with additional learning problems, are likely to require very intensive individual, small group and specialist teaching. As a result of different historical and geographical factors, LEAs cater for this group in different ways, eg by placement in special schools, and/or in special classes or resource bases in mainstream schools.

The overriding factor is that a range of provision is needed to provide access to the curriculum for such pupils - this may include out-of-LEA, non-maintained or independent special schools and colleges.

The mandatory requirement is essential for ToDs in all of these settings. Indeed, additional training beyond this is usually vital if the needs of pupils with more complex learning difficulties are to be adequately met.


1 Organisation

Variations in organisation can be a source of strength as they allow a flexible response to be made to challenges in very different geographical and demographic situations. However, variations in the level of support available, which have their origins solely in wide differences of staffing and resource are unacceptable. All hearing-impaired pupils should have equality of opportunity, irrespective of where they live. Unfortunately this is not the current situation.

In consequence, BATOD sets out the following standards which Specialist Services for Hearing-Impaired Children should use as a baseline for ensuring quality of provision:

  1. All Teachers of the Deaf within an LEA, i.e both peripatetic and 'unit' or 'resource base' staff, should be employed and managed by a centrally funded (ie LEA) Service, which allows for flexibility of provision to meet fluctuating need. This Service can therefore provide clear policies which allow for mutual self-support, continuing professional development and a coherent and planned provision within a particular geographical area. It also enables a rapid response to be made to the concerns of pupils, parents and teachers.
  2. The Service should work with all babies, children and young people who have significant hearing difficulties. This should include those children with persistent conductive losses and those with unilateral losses.
  3. ToDs should become involved with deaf babies and their parents as soon as possible and, without question, immediately after diagnosis has been confirmed.
  4. The Service should either supply specialist support for students in post-16 provision or have very strong links with existing provision. Where this provision is less than satisfactory, the Service should actively campaign to improve the situation. The availability of suitable post-16 provision and support remains very much in the financial interests of the LEA. This ensures that a framework of expertise exists to cater for a constantly fluctuating population. In some cases where very intensive or specialist tutoring is required, out-of-LEA, non-maintained or independent schools and colleges may have an essential contribution to make.
  5. Specific funds should be available to the Service to ensure that pupils have access to appropriately qualified staff and staffing levels, including LSA and communicator support; to audiological and ICT equipment; and to acoustically treated classrooms and/or 'sound field' systems. A rolling five-year programme to replace audiological and ICT equipment should also be drawn up.
  6. Funds should provide for appropriate administrative backup for Service staff.
  7. Teachers within the Service should have the support of the LEA, including an agreed Pay Policy and Conditions of Employment.
  8. All teachers, employed to work with hearing-impaired children, whether or not they are based in a special school, unit or peripatetic service should be required to undertake the ToD mandatory training. LEAs should ensure that funds are available to meet the fees and supply cover for those teachers who undertake this training. The funding should be made accessible as soon as possible after an appointment has been made. Teachers within the Service should also have access to statutory funding for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  9. Opportunities should be found for teachers to meet other members of the Service, both for CPD and for observation/shadowing of those who offer 'good practice' as well as to share ideas.
  10. Ideally the Head of Service for Hearing-Impaired Children should have the mandatory ToD qualification and have appropriate previous teaching experience in deaf education. However, BATOD recognises that many specialist Services have been designated as 'Sensory Support Services' and may incorporate teachers with specialisms in other areas of disability. If the latter is the case, there should be a 'Lead Professional' within the specialist H-I Service who does hold the ToD qualification. The Head of Service and the 'Lead Professional should be paid at a level determined by the responsibilities presented. (See also below.)

Learning Support Staff, including notetakers, communicators, and interpreters, should have a clear career structure and be paid at differing rates according to their qualifications. In most cases, where they are supporting hearing-impaired pupils, their pay should come from the Service budget. This means that deployment and management of the LSAs, communicators and other support staff becomes the responsibility of Head of Service. LSAs should also be granted peripatetic status by the Head of Service, so that acquired skills will not be lost when individual pupils move on. It would also allow for their specialist knowledge and understanding to be used more effectively and efficiently.

BATOD believes that Sections 1 and 2 (outlined above) of the work of Services represent a basic minimum to which all LEAs should be appropriately staffed and resourced to provide, with recommendations for staffing levels listed below.

Section 3 is also essential, but LEAs may choose to meet some of the needs identified here through out-of-LEA or non-maintained provision, if there is a consensus that this is in the best interests of the child concerned and meets the reasonable wishes of his/her parents. In these cases, consideration must be given to communication needs, personal identity and the presence of a suitable peer group.

2 Conditions of Service

If a high quality specialist service is to be provided for hearing-impaired pupils and students, it is imperative to recruit staff of high professional calibre, who remain in this specialist field long enough to gain the in-depth experience which the management of the more complex educational aspects of severe hearing impairment requires.

Continuity and stability in a Service are also endangered by a high turnover of staff. It is clearly essential, therefore, that a career structure is provided which is sufficiently rewarding to attract and retain appropriate personnel.

The continuous provision of high quality teaching requires that its overall professional supervision and appraisal is undertaken by an experienced specialist in the field.

Then, according to the size of the Service, one or more deputy posts are essential for continuity and effectiveness. Likewise, a sufficient number of promoted posts, including opportunities for staff to become advanced skills teachers, should be available to provide a suitable management team to lead the range of services offered.

Some aspects of the work of a Service may need to be maintained on a 52 week basis and LEAs should determine whether to provide additional Teachers of the Deaf or whether to appoint some of them on different Conditions of Service (and appropriate additional remuneration) to meet this need.

All ToDs working in units, classes or specially resourced schools should have the professional support and supervision of a specialist Head of Service or 'Lead Professional', in addition to their accountability to the Heads of the Schools concerned. ToDs based in FE Colleges should equally be part of a coherent framework with an appropriate career structure.

All staff, including Heads and Deputy Heads of Services should be included in a pay policy with the right of an annual review of pay. (See below for recommendations regarding the pay issue.)

3 Proposed Levels of Staffing

The following proposals are based on the detailed experience of a wide range of Heads of Services and represent a practical compromise between the ideal and minimal levels of provision.

Section 1 (under 5s)

One ToD: 5000 of the 0 - 5 years population. This should be regarded as basic provision and where any, or all, of the following factors are significant, the ratio should rise, to 1 ToD: 3000.

The relevant factors may be:

a) a widely scattered population;
b) a high proportion of the population having a first language that is not English;
c) a level of educationally significant hearing loss well above the national average.

Section 2 (5-18 years)

One ToD: 5000 of the 5-16 years population, rising as necessary, according to the factors outlined in Section 1 above, to One ToD: 3000.

BATOD also recommends that the same staffing ratios are employed in the post-16 sector, based on the population of young people in full time education and/or training.

Section 3 (Requiring Highly Intensive Tuition)

One ToD: 3 hearing-impaired pupils who require highly intensive specialist tuition. This staffing should be independent of the basic staffing of a Service and LEAs may wish to make the provision through their own Services or through specialist schools.


It has been recommended above that a coherent Service framework with appropriate staffing and resource levels is essential if hearing-impaired pupils and students are to have equal educational opportunities. However, the key to the effectiveness of a Service is the quality of the staff involved.

Consequently, it is the Association's view that not only should all ToDs hold the mandatory specialist qualification but also that LEAs should attempt to recruit staff with a wide range of skills and experience.

In order to retain such staff, a career structure, allied to a Pay Policy which reflects the specialist nature of the work, should be employed by each LEA.

Since 1993 BATOD has made submissions to the STRB strongly suggesting that there should be a more equitable approach to pay for those people working in central SEN Specialist Services. Nothing, beyond recognition that such teachers are entitled to a Pay Policy, has been done. There has in fact been a year by year procrastination by STRB, who have consistently passed the responsibility to LEAs. The outcome has been both an inequality of pay from one LEA to another and to comparatively overall, poor pay levels. This is totally unsatisfactory, particularly bearing in mind that well structured support services are fundamental to the rights of children and parents, as well as to the Government's drive towards more inclusive education and the raising of standards.

In view of the current situation, in which there are wide variations in provision, BATOD urges the Government to recognise the crucial importance of such Services to its policies and to instruct STRB to draw up appropriate pay levels and conditions of employment for Service staff.

E Moore President BATOD 1993-1995

updated from original version published November 1994 in the BATOD Association Magazine
February 2000