Specialist teachers of the deaf: Alarm at dramatic fall in numbers

Cost-cutting and a crisis in the recruitment and retention of specialist teachers of the deaf is putting the education of thousands of deaf children at risk.

Redundancies and high caseloads for those who remain are creating a perfect storm that has seen one in five posts lost since 2012. We now have only 860 teachers of the deaf working in England, compared to 1,064 in 2012.

And more than half of specialist teachers are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years meaning that if trends continue the workforce could be down to 727 by 2030.

A report from Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE, 2022) says that around four in 10 local authorities have seen a decrease in the number of teachers of the deaf in the past year alone. At the same time, there are recruitment problems in some areas due to a lack of qualified applicants.

As a result, the pressure on existing specialist teachers is rising. The report finds that, on average, each peripatetic teacher of the deaf now has a theoretical caseload of 63 deaf children – up from 46 in 2012.

There have been concerns for some time about the number of specialist teachers of the deaf falling victim to local authorities cost-cutting. The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), which is a member of CRIDE, makes annual Freedom of Information requests which show “a sustained pattern of cuts to budgets to these vital services over many years”.

The charity also reports that when support is available to families, it is increasingly being “rationed”.

There are at least 45,680 deaf children across England and they can be among the lowest achieving cohorts – averaging an entire GCSE grade less than their non-deaf peers. Furthermore, in English and maths 37.7% of deaf children achieve a grade 5 in both subjects, compared with 51.9% of all children.

Teachers of the deaf can remove barriers to learning, advise schools on deaf awareness and inclusion, and support parents and carers, especially those of newly identified deaf children (half of deaf children are born deaf and the other half become deaf during childhood).

The NDCS wants the government to address the crisis in its anticipated response to the SEND Green Paper and is calling for a commitment to invest in the training and recruitment of 200 new qualified teachers of the deaf.

Ian Noon, the charity’s chief policy advisor, said: “Teachers of the deaf play a crucial role in supporting deaf children of all ages, but year after year they’re being cut as a money saving exercise. Our projected figures for 2030 are truly alarming.

“This educational emergency will leave thousands of deaf children fighting for their futures as they continue to fall behind at every stage of school.”

  • For details on the support offered by the National Deaf Children’s Society, visit
  • CRIDE: 2022 report for England: Education provision for deaf children in England in 2021/22, January 2022: