I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments. I will talk about the issues he raised in a bit more detail, but he has hit the nail on the head about the need for hearing aids and other assisted listening technologies outside the school or nursery setting. I thank him for that, and for his important work in South Gloucestershire on behalf of the communities.
Early years support services can be vital in determining a child’s future success. Therefore, it is important that local children get the targeted support that they require as early as possible during their development. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many deaf children can face a lack of pre-school and early-years support. The foundations for communication and language skills are often laid during the earliest stage of a child’s life. Local parents have expressed their concerns about the uncertainty that comes with the review and about making sure that the outcome is right. Support for early years and pre-school must be prioritised and strengthened during the review period.
Support in the form of teachers of the deaf can be extremely useful for children with hearing loss. They provide specialist training and advice to teachers, parents and pupils on how to deal with the difficulties that come with the everyday challenges that people may face. Those teachers can give skilled assistance to pupils and their families and make a significant contribution to their academic progress and achievement later in life. Currently, there are unfilled vacancies in South Gloucestershire that are a source of concern to local parents, who want to ensure that the frontline delivery of services remains a priority after September 2019. Parents want to be certain that children in our community will continue to have fair access to help from those specialist teachers so that they can continue to make positive improvements in their development and learning. It is vital that the review protects frontline teaching of the deaf.
My third point is about therapy support—specifically, speech and language therapy provision—beyond key stage 1 in South Gloucestershire. Speech and language therapy—SALT—can help children to develop better communication skills, optimise their speech, build their confidence and improve their interaction with others. It is important to ensure that the appropriate specialised SALT support is provided beyond key stage 1, because it can make a real difference to the development of children’s communication.
It is important that local children can continue to benefit from the expert advice and assessment of the NHS SALT service after the review. This is, therefore, the perfect time for South Gloucestershire Council and other authorities to consider improving the joining up of provision and support between health and education organisations, especially following the Ofsted report. Although I accept that in some cases commissioning is delegated to schools, it is important to ensure that support such as the provision of teachers of the deaf and SALT is complemented, and that there are no gaps in the provision of services for deaf children. That is a real concern that parents and the NDCS in particular have raised with me.