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March 4, 2005

EDUCATION: Parents' fears for deaf daughters

From: Peterborough Evening Telegraph - Peterborough,England,UK - Mar 4, 2005

THE parents of two deaf schoolgirls have spoken out about fears for their children's future after funding for classroom support was put under threat. Wendy Fassler, mum of eight-year-old Shannon, and Amanda Ayres, mum of April (7), fear schooling could become a "nightmare" for their families following funding changes.

Currently, the Local Education Authority (LEA) allocates money in a child's name for extra tuition under the medical hours scheme.

But, from April, the scheme will be scrapped and the cash will go to each school within its annual budget and will not be specifically set aside for one pupil.

Shannon, who attends Middleton Primary School, in Bretton, Peterborough, suffers moderate hearing loss and currently receives 10 hours of one-to-one tuition a week, allowing her to keep pace with her classmates.

Severely-deaf April attends Heritage Park School, in Stanground, where she also gets one-to-one support to help her in class.

But the parents of both girls feel they now face a fight to ensure extra tuition continues every year.

Mrs Fassler claims that without the £4,000 funding, Shannon will fall behind and have to move schools.

She said: "This has turned into a nightmare. Shannon's only problem is that she cannot hear what goes on in a busy classroom.

"Without the extra help, I know she would struggle.

"I have been worrying about this for months. We shouldn't have to go through this to ensure that my daughter receives the help she deserves."

Mrs Ayres (37) said: "The school has now told me that April's funding has been secured until 2006, but it has been a struggle to get them to agree to it.

"It worries me, because I fear I will have to go through the same thing next year, and the year after."

Council chiefs said funds would still be made available to the schools, but they could not guarantee the safeguarding of funds on an annual basis.

Julie Miller, senior education officer for Peterborough City Council, said: "We can assure parents the money for medical hours support that was previously held by ourselves has been passed to individual schools through their delegated budget allocations.

"To continue to support such needs in the future, further discussions will need to be held with schools during the period April 2005 to March 2006."

© 2005 Johnston Press New Media.