I read a thought-provoking article this week about the alarmingly low number of disabled teachers in schools. According to figures provided by the Department for Education, less than 1% of the teaching workforce has a disability.
The article follows the example of Tom Kent, who is profoundly deaf and is currently on a graduate teaching programme. Previously a student drama teacher in Littlehampton, West Sussex, Tom, with the aid of an interpreter, observed group discussions and fed back his comments to the students. This method received fantastic feedback, from both the assistant head, who referred to Tom as “outstanding, making sure he had eye contact and using his face and body to express himself” and a student who described the class as “calm and settled.” The students were even starting to learn sign language.
Positive role models
The above example suitably highlights the concern raised by the lack of disabled teachers that students are missing out on the opportunity to be taught by high quality teachers. The reason for this appears to come down to a lack of funds. Mr Kent’s training year is estimated at a cost of £60,000 to cover places for his interpreters and note-takers and given the declining budgets which schools are facing, the cost of employing disabled staff, along with building modifications and the equipment required, means that the number of disabled teachers is only likely to drop in the future. According to Professor Rita Egan, a retired teacher, successive governments have not encouraged disabled people to apply to teach and are not considering their needs when building new schools. Egan has submitted evidence to a Common select committee inquiry about this deficit.
This makes for worrying reading. It is concerning to read that many disabled people are giving up on their hopes of becoming a teacher, preventing them from becoming an important role model to students. Hopefully, the awareness raised by this article will help the government to make the necessary changes and these statistics can improve in the future.