Campaign Exams U-turn for deaf children
Client The National Deaf Children's Society
PR team In-house
Timescale June 2006-ongoing
Earlier this year it emerged that UK school exam body the Qualification Curriculum Authority (QCA) intended to scrap specialist exams for deaf students. Despite the fact that the QCA was effectively penalising deaf students by making them sit the same ‘listening exams' as able-hearing pupils - potentially causing them to lose around 25 per cent of the available marks in some exams - it defended the move by citing disability rights law.
The QCA argued that if exams were adjusted for deaf candidates, the body could be accused of unfairly discriminating against other students.
The move was met with uproar by disability and children's charities, which said the QCA had misinterpreted the law. The National Deaf Children's Society led a consortium of charities, including deafblind organisation Sense, in a lobbying campaign against the exam group's policy.
To raise awareness in the education sector of the end to special exam measures for deaf pupils. To persuade the QCA to reverse its decision.
Strategy and Plan
The National Deaf Children's Society decided to target opinion formers, those in the education sector and
specialist press. A press release was drafted detailing the plans and the effect they would have on deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
This information was released to the media in June. It emphasised that the changes could result in students suffering deductions to their exam marks, putting them at a severe disadvantage in relation to their able-hearing peers.
Case studies of teachers with experience of teaching deaf children, and of deaf pupils themselves, were made available. Meanwhile, specialist media were targeted with updates on the campaign, including the drafting of an Early Day Motion on the issue.
Measurement and Evaluation
All of the journalists contacted used the angle that deaf children would be forced to take listening exams.
Media that covered the launch of the campaign included the Daily Mail, Children Now, Disability Now and the main target publication - The Times Education Supplement. The latter's front-page story on 23 June, ‘Disabled Law Will Penalise the Deaf', was typical of coverage.
The story was also covered by BBC2 disability show SeeHear this month (Saturday, 14 October).
An Early Day Motion against the proposed move was tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander. It was signed by 52 MPs on 19 July and, early last month, the QCA announced a partial U-turn.
One special measure for listening exams, involving an alternative ‘indication certificate', was reinstated to the tests.
Further campaigning is set for the coming months because the QCA has not reinstated ‘oral communicators' to assist in oral testing.
Children Now deputy news editor David Singleton says: ‘This was a good story for us as there were a lot of groups in the sector who were extremely angry about what appeared to be crazy rule changes.'