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Just 1/3 deaf children would go to school if teachers had facemasks

Published Date: 02 Sep 2020
  • Just 36% of parents plan to send their deaf child to school if face masks are introduced, new survey shows.
  • Deaf children already achieve an entire grade less at GCSE and the gap will widen if they cannot understand their teachers.
  • The National Deaf Children’s Society says schools, colleges and Governments must act now to make sure deaf pupils aren’t let down.
  • “Every child the same right to a world class education and this does not change just because you are deaf”, the charity says.
  • Case study: “I won’t be able to understand what my teacher is saying.”

Just one in three deaf children across the UK are likely to be in school if facemasks are introduced, a new survey shows.

The research, carried out by the National Deaf Children’s Society among 800 parents of deaf children, shows that just 36% were likely to send their child to school if the teacher was wearing a face mask. A further one in five (19%) were uncertain about what they would do.

Governments across the UK now require face coverings in communal areas in secondary schools or colleges, or will allow schools and colleges to make them compulsory. Whilst face coverings are not currently recommended in classrooms, teachers can choose to wear them.

The National Deaf Children’s Society says that deaf children in England already achieve less than their hearing classmates at every stage of school, including an entire grade lower at GCSE on average, because the Government’s education policy has failed. There are also serious gaps in achievement between deaf and hearing children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

After dramatic changes in Government policy across the nations, the charity, parents and deaf pupils across the country are now extremely concerned that this is a slippery slope towards face masks in classrooms, and it’s a move some schools have already made.

The National Deaf Children’s Society says that the UK Government has an immediate responsibility to clarify its position so that no deaf child is failed by their school.

The charity also warned schools and colleges that they have a legal duty to make sure every child can access their education, meaning they must make every reasonable adjustment necessary to make sure face masks don’t exclude or isolation deaf students.

Ian Noon, Chief Policy Advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“In the decades I’ve worked in education policy, I’ve never seen a policy roll-out that’s happened so quickly and caused so much genuine fear, worry and anguish for deaf students and their families.

“Safety must be the number one priority, but if face masks are worn in the classroom, isolation and loneliness risk becoming a daily reality for deaf pupils up and down the country.

“Every child the same right to a world class education and this does not change just because you are deaf, so the urgently Government needs to buy and distribute clear face masks to schools that have deaf pupils.

“We also need more investment in transformational technology to make sure every individual child is getting the tailored support they need to succeed, whether they’re learning at home or in school.

“Deaf children are already facing the challenge of their educational lifetime to catch-up after lockdown and school closures. They must not be let down yet again.”

Polly, 15, from London, is severely to profoundly deaf.

“As I’m going into Year 11 in September, I’m especially concerned about face masks in schools. I’ve already missed most of my first year of GCSEs because of COVID-19 and I worry lots of my learning next year will be missed because of face masks.

“I use a radio aid in lessons, but I still rely on lip reading and speech clarity to learn effectively. Face masks remove both of these options and it means I won’t be able to understand what my teacher is saying.

“There’s also a possibility that pupils will be asked to wear face masks in communal areas, which is an even bigger issue because the levels of background noise already make it extremely difficult for me, or any deaf person, to have a conversation. It will mean I can’t lip read and can’t follow what my friends are saying, which could lead to me feeling isolated, something no young person needs after months of lockdown.

“I understand why teaching unions are standing up for teachers’ rights and campaigning for face masks in schools. I just want people to understand the impact on deaf young people before any decisions are made.”