National Deaf Children’s Society Responds to Stoke-on-Trent City Councils U-Turn On Educational Services For Deaf Children

NDCS is pleased that as a result of our High Court legal action Stoke City Council is reconsidering its proposed decision to cut vital educational services for deaf children. However, we are very disappointed that it has taken them this long: months of discussion, a Freedom of Information request and a High Court action, to bring about this U-turn.

The battle is not over yet as Stoke City Council is not reversing their previous decision to cut three Teachers of the Deaf. Parents continue to believe that the service needs to be improved and we will be supporting parents to ensure that their concerns are heard.
NDCS and the council are currently in the process of agreeing a court order which will quash the council’s decision and ensure that, if the council propose more changes, they must do so by a proper legal process which will involve consulting NDCS and others.

Parents who are concerned about the support their child is getting can contact the NDCS Freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880, email helpline@ndcs.org.uk or visit the website using the link below.

High Court orders Stoke-on-Trent City Council to halt deaf children’s cuts

The High Court has ordered Stoke-on-Trent City Council to immediately halt its planned cuts to educational support for deaf children while the Court considers the National Deaf Children’s Society’s (NDCS) legal challenge of Council decisions that have put the future of the city’s deaf children at risk.

In response to an application the NDCS made on Monday 22 August, the High Court has granted vital temporary protection for Stoke-on-Trent’s 200 deaf children, which means they will return to school with their support from last term intact. NDCS was very concerned that next week the Council would cut one more Teacher of the Deaf, which would have meant a reduction from six to three visiting Teachers of the Deaf in less than two years.

The High Court’s decision will be a relief to parents of deaf children in Stoke who have been in a constant state of uncertainty about their children’s future for months. Deaf children across the country are being left behind in the classroom and particularly in this case the council’s decisions to make cuts have been reckless. It is great news that the High Court has recognised the need to urgently protect these deaf children whilst it considers whether the case should be granted a judicial review.

We’ve been proud to support parents throughout this process. Today we have passed the first hurdle and we will continue to represent deaf children’s best interests until they get the support the Council has a duty to provide.

On Monday 12 September the High Court will decide whether to grant NDCS a judicial review. In the meantime, the court has also stopped the council from making any changes to the job descriptions of Teachers of the Deaf, which would have meant they no longer directly taught deaf children. It has also prevented the council making changes to the criteria that determines support for a deaf child. The council cannot now implement any of these decisions on 1 September or at any time until the matter is finally determined.

National Deaf Children’s Society takes first step to start legal action to save services for deaf children in Stoke-on-Trent

The National Deaf Children’s Society has taken the first step in taking legal action against Stoke on Trent council to prevent further cuts to the help deaf children receive.

A restructuring of the service, due to take place in September, will result in a Teacher of the Deaf being displaced to another team. NDCS also fears that it will result in Teachers of the Deaf no longer having a direct teaching role with deaf children and being forced to spend less time with pre-school deaf children. Parents have been left largely in the dark over the changes. The restructure follows two redundancies earlier this year.

Over the past year, NDCS has told the council how the cuts and proposed restructure will have a massive impact on deaf children in Stoke on Trent, and our belief that equality laws have not been followed. A NDCS petition that was signed by nearly 600 local residents was debated within the council. However, rather than reverse the cuts, the council’s response to the petition was to promise to share information on the changes to the service to NDCS. A final appeal to the council to pause on the restructure was ignored, forcing NDCS to take legal action.

A letter from NDCS’s solicitors has been sent to the council. NDCS will then consider applying for a judicial review of the council’s decision, asking the courts to decide whether the council have acted lawfully. The letter from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer addressed to Paul Hackney requests that the council provide a ‘substantive response’ by 4PM on Friday 19th August. The full letter can be found by following the links at the bottom of this article.

NDCS hopes that by taking legal action against Stoke on Trent, other councils will realise that any cuts to help for deaf children will not go unchallenged. NDCS is calling on parents in other areas to get in touch with NDCS urgently if they wish to legally challenge any cuts in their area.

In light of impending legal action from the National Deaf Children’s Society, it would be inappropriate for the city council to comment further at this stage.