Improving educational and social outcomes for deaf children of Roma families in the UK

This project built on the established PI work with multilingual deaf children and their families and a developed Language Planning tool to address the educational and social needs of deaf children of Roma families. It ran in partnership with five deaf education local authority services (Sheffield, Rotherham, Peterborough, Leeds and Bradford), The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, The Ear Foundation and the National Deaf Children’s Society.

There are approximately 50,000 deaf children (0-19) in the UK. The most at risk in terms of academic and social development are newly arrived and migrant deaf children and most notably those from Roma populations. This vulnerable group are currently growing in number and local authorities and deaf education practitioners are seeking to develop support and intervention strategies.

There are no national data on the demographics of this group and little research beyond the medical consensus that recessive disorders among Roma populations lead to prelingual hearing loss. This high prevalence of deafness in some Roma communities has significant implications for education, health and social participation.

The project brought together academics, educational, charity and community partners to identify the learning, development and social needs of deaf children of Roma families, plan appropriate  multi-professional intervention and support  and establish a national stakeholder group to ensure the reach,  development and sustainability of the outcomes.


This research has not been done before. The issues of childhood deafness are not examined in the Roma research and the issues of being Roma in the UK are not discussed in the deaf education and studies research. It is important that the issues surrounding childhood deafness are seen and addressed for Roma communities and that the issues associated with being Roma in the UK are understood within deaf education. Our research, for the first time makes visible these issues.

Our project engaged new external partners:-

  • Roma Support Group (small national charity)
  • Roma Futures (Small regional charity)
  • Open Society Foundations (international grant making organisation)
  • Migration Yorkshire (regional partnership organisation)
  • ACERT (small national charity)

These new partners attended the stakeholder meetings and final conference.  We have built a community through the project meetings which have allowed knowledge exchange. We have then extended this community to a wide network and a small stakeholder group.

30 of the conference delegates have joined the network to receive updates about our research and notification of future events.

BATOD, Ear Foundation and NDCS all identified that they learnt from the project. These are the 3 most significant organisations working with deaf children in England. The project meetings provided a space for practitioners from local authorities, national charities and academics to share and build knowledge. The stakeholder group and conference then brought in Roma and migration organisations to extend this conversation.

Our project has motivated:-  change in practice of deaf educators; change in how deaf education services collect ethnic data and change in practice/greater awareness among groups working with migrants/Roma communities. We anticipate that there may also be policy change; the report has been circulated to government departments  but haven’t had time for these impacts to be realised. Our work has been cited in the latest RECI+ for Slovakia and in the National Roma network report.

A new question has been added to the national deaf  education survey to capture number of deaf migrant children. This is important in helping to map how many deaf migrant children there are in England so appropriate support can be put in place.

Publications and outputs

  • 1 report published
  • 2 short articles in BATOD magazine
  • 1 short article in Roma Support Group newsletter
  • 1 submitted article (see below)

Swanwick, R., Elmore, J. and Salter. J. (under review) Educational inclusion of deaf Roma children and implications for multi-professional working  Deafness and Education International 

These publications have disseminated and will disseminate our project to a wide audience of academics, deaf educators and community groups.

Project website