Stoke & Staffordshire

Stoke council to review cuts planned for deaf pupil aid

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has said it will review its decision to cut educational support for deaf children.

The Labour-controlled council planned to reduce classroom assistants for deaf children as part of measures to save £187,000 from its special needs budget.

It was ordered by the High Court last month to halt its plans pending a judicial review, requested by the National Deaf Children's Society.

The council said in response to opposition it would review its plan.

Previously the charity described the decision to reduce funding for classroom support as "reckless" and said it would leave only three teachers in charge of 200 children.

'We listened'

Councillor Debra Gratton, cabinet member for children's services, said the decision supported by full council to reduce spending on services for deaf children had been "very difficult" to make.

"But the welfare and education of all the city's children is, and always will be, very important.

"We have listened to the arguments made by the National Deaf Children's Society, and we have listened to parents, children and teachers.

"In light of this, it has been agreed that the original decisions be reviewed, following proper and meaningful consultation, to help us to continue to provide the best level of services for city children.

'Battle not over'

"The council is also mindful that the legal challenge could prove costly; this is taxpayers' money which could much more productively be spent delivering public services than being eaten up in the law courts."

A spokesman for The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) said the charity was pleased the council had now decided to review its spending cuts decision, but disappointed that it had taken so long.

Jo Campion, NDCS deputy director of policy and campaigns added: "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."

Ms Campion said the NDCS and the council were in the process of agreeing a court order to quash the council's original decision and ensure that, if the council proposed further changes, the proposals followed a legal process that included consulting with the NDCS and others.

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