Returning to school after the coronavirus lockdownPublished Date: 04 Sep 2020
Even in normal times, the return to school after the summer holidays can bring all sorts of challenges for deaf children and young people.
This year, however, many deaf children and young people will returning after a lengthy period at home during the coronavirus lockdown. There will also be lots of new rules in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and the classroom may feel quite different to how it was before.
The UK Governments are taking different approaches to how schools re-open but, wherever you live, it will be important that your child continues to get the specialist support they need. This blog sets out a checklist of questions that you can use to ask your child’s school about how the return to school will work in practice for your child.
This checklist is most relevant for children who are in a mainstream school. However, if your child is in a different type of education setting, many of these questions may still be helpful.
You can also take a look at our infographic which summarises the below checklist.
What you should expect
In all of this, we think there are a number of key things that you should expect. For example, you should expect:
- For the education setting to involve you in any decisions on how specialist support will be provided. If there will be any changes, you should be asked what you think and if your own suggestions. We also think that your child’s Teacher of the Deaf should also be involved in any discussions on specialist support.
- There to be a can-do approach. Whilst coronavirus is important, it’s also important that your child gets the specialist support they need, as much as possible. We want to see teachers being as creative and flexible as possible. If there is a need to change the support your child receives, you should be told how long these changes will be for. The school or college should also tell you how they will make sure your child can catch up.
- There to be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches. Your child is an individual and it’s important that teachers consider how your child’s individual needs can continue to be met.
Questions to ask your child’s school
Every deaf child is different and not all of the below questions may be relevant to you. However, we hope they will be helpful in any discussions with your child’s teachers and Teacher of the Deaf.
- Will your child’s Teacher of the Deaf be able to visit the school as before? If not, what steps will be taken to make sure the Teacher of the Deaf is able to provide specialist support to your child and their teachers?
In England and Wales the Governments have explicitly said that peripatetic teachers can continue to visit schools.
- If your child uses a radio aid, will there be any changes to how this is used?
There are likely to be new rules around hygiene and not ‘sharing’ devices between different people. However, there are ways around this. For example, teachers can wash their hands before or after using a radio aid. Radio aids can also be cleaned in a similar way to mobile phones. However, this must be done carefully to avoid damaging the radio aid – your child’s Teacher of the Deaf can provide advice to the school on this.
- What will happen if something goes wrong with your child’s hearing aid or implant whilst at school? For example, if your child needs new batteries.
It’s possible that your child’s school may ask you to carry out basic checks before your child goes to school. Check with your Teacher of the Deaf is there’s anything it would be helpful for you to do. If something does go wrong whilst at school, if teachers were already doing any checks, it should still be possible for them to carry on doing this, and to wash their hands before and after.
- If your child has a teaching assistant or communication support worker, will there be any changes to how this support is provided?
There may be some changes to how teaching assistants are used, particularly if your child’s school decides to break up classes into smaller ‘bubbles’. However, if your child’s needs individual one-to-one support, we would expect that to continue. In England, the Government has explicitly said that teaching assistants providing one-to-one support should not be moved.
- If your child goes to a school with a resource base or hub, will there be any changes to how support is provided?
Schools are expected to avoid ‘intermixing’ of children in different classes or ‘bubbles’. However, where intermixing is necessary because children need specialist support, these rules may be relaxed. If so, there may be extra rules for your child around handwashing when they move between classes or there may be some changes to the timetable to reduce the amount of moving around.
- Will there be any changes to where your child is educated? If so, will your child be able to hear their teacher in this new classroom?
It’s possible that some schools may introduce new ‘temporary’ classrooms to help create more social distancing space in the school. It’s important that the school consider what the listening environment will be like in this new space. They should make sure that your child is in the best possible classroom in terms of noise.
- Will there be any remote learning in place? If so, how will the school make sure that your child can understand this?
There is a possibility that some schools may have to close down again if there is a new local lockdown in your area. Schools should have plans in place to make sure that learning can continue. This may include online lessons. You should expect the school to think about how they can make this accessible to your child (for example, by adding subtitles to any video content). If your child uses one, your child should be able to take their radio aid home. Make sure the radio aid is looked after, as much as possible at home, and returns back to school once they re-open.
- Will there be any catch-up support or one-to-one tutoring in place for your child? If so, how will they make sure this is deaf-friendly?
Some schools will be bringing in tutors to provide extra support for some children. Some schools may also be setting up their own catch-up programmes. It’s important that these are accessible to your child. The school should seek advice from your child’s Teacher of the Deaf around this. In particular, any tutors should receive information and advice from the Teacher of the Deaf to make sure they understand your child’s needs.
- Does your child needs any extra help with their emotional wellbeing? Will the school be making sure that any wellbeing support is deaf-friendly?
The coronavirus lockdown has been very difficult for many children. Schools will be thinking about how they can help your child get back into their usual routines. They may need to speak to your child’s Teacher of the Deaf to make sure this is deaf-friendly. If you think your child might need more support our website has more information on the help available.
- Will face masks or coverings be used in school?
Depending on where you live, children in secondary schools may be required to wear face coverings in communal areas (such as corridors) and/or school transport. Exemptions to this may apply. Face masks or coverings have not been recommended in classrooms by any of the UK Governments. However, you may want to check what approach your child's school will be taking.
If a decision is made to allow face coverings to be worn inside the classroom, you should discuss with the school and any Teacher of the Deaf how this will impact your child. Education settings are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your child is not disadvantaged.Take a look at our face masks blog for more information.
My child has an Education, Health and Care plan or a statement of SEN
Depending on where you live, there may have been some temporary changes to the law around plans and statements. Take a look at our blog on plans and statements for more information on what’s happening in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
We have also produced more detailed guidance for schools on things they need to think about when deaf children return to school (guidance also available in Welsh). You may wish to share this with your child’s school or Teacher of the Deaf.
In addition, we have developed some 'open letters' that can be shared with schools and colleges. There are different versions of this letter, depending on where you live.
Our coronavirus blogs have more information on things that might be different for your child because of coronavirus.
Remember, if you need any help, information or support, you can contact our helpline.