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Southport Reporter

Edition No. 87

Date:- 21 February 2003

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enhanced paint schemes and adjustable lighting for partially sighted children; and acoustic loops and tiling of classrooms for deaf children. It can also be used to buy Information and Communications Technology equipment to benefit children with a range of disabilities. In September 2002 “the Disability Discrimination Act” came into effect. “Local Education Authorities (LEAs) for the first time have been given legislation that will give disabled pupils the same opportunities to achieve their potential as their non disabled peers.” Schools Minister in 2002 called Catherine Ashton said, "The Government is firmly committed to ensuring that all children reach their full potential and the seven-fold increase in funding is clear evidence of this. The money will create further opportunities for pupils with disabilities and remove barriers to achievement across the country. We recognise that, despite this huge increase in funding there is still someway to go and that is why we are making £100 million available to LEAs for 2003-04."

Louise, who is herself deaf comments, “The biggest problem is that the systems are only relevant for pupils who can be integrated as the loop systems and other proposals do not work with all deaf pupils.” With very few places catering for severely deaf students, it is hard to get places in such schools, so some students are now slipping through the net already, but the cash is not there to help them. The focus of funds allocated in 2002 is very wide ranging, covering all types of disabilities. Many critics of full integration believe that such an inflexible policy does not allow pupils and parents a say in their (or their child’s) education. Interestingly one ex-pupil of BSHI said, “A child should have the rights to choose which school they want to go. To ensure their happiness, as this will show later on in their life.” 

Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children was founded in 1948 as a centre of excellence for the education of children who are moderately, severely or profoundly deaf. Founded in 1948. The school is non-selective and accommodates day pupils, weekly and termly boarders. Run as a registered charity, it provides Primary and Secondary education for hearing-impaired children aged 5 years and upwards. In addition, it has “post 16 Further Education” deaf students who are supported in local mainstream colleges of Further Education. Now the school, which once had 116 pupils, has only 25 in it today and faces financial difficulties. They urgently need help, but financial aid from LEA has not been forthcoming. Without it they will have to close this year. The school is not the first to be threatened with closure since 1994. Burwood Park School for the Deaf was closed at the end of 1996, also 4 others throughout the UK have been closed leading up to 2003. One parent from BSHIC said, “My daughter, Charlotte is 14. She has always had a very severe hearing loss, which was not properly diagnosed until she was nearly 3 years old. When she was in primary school and others were learning basic skills, Charlotte was slowly learning to speak. Throughout her education, she never made up this deficit and despite voicing my concerns on numerous occasions was told she would 'catch up and not to worry'. Charlotte was premature at birth and had a swallowing problem, which caused her to choke many times, and she nearly died. She has always been very underweight. When she started secondary education, she only weighed 3 stones 12 ounces! She is very sensitive about her weight and from day one; she was bullied physically, derided about her weight and called names. She only gained 2 pounds during the next year. I pushed for her to be assessed as I felt Charlotte also had learning difficulties and the process started. Due to all the reasons given, I took her out of mainstream as she was 'drowning' in the system and placed her at Birkdale School and funded her myself.  Please Click on to read on.

Southport Reporter is Trade Mark of Patrick Trollope.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2003.