Returning to schoolPublished Date: 16 Aug 2021
Even in normal times, the return to school after a break can bring all sorts of challenges for deaf children and young people.
Whilst coronavirus restrictions are easing across the UK, there may still be some rules in place in your child’s school to manage the spread of coronavirus when your child returns. This blog sets out an updated 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.
What you should expect
In all of this, we think there are a number of key things that you should continue to 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. It’s 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?
Government guidance across the UK allows Teachers of the Deaf to provide support in schools. Our view is that peripatetic support should continue to be provided as much as possible, especially if your child will be significantly disadvantaged without this support. There should be no ‘blanket policies’ where a decision is made not to allow any external visitors or visits without taking into account your child’s individual needs. Any such blanket policies may be seen as unlawful.
- If your child uses a radio aid, will there be any changes to how this is used?
Schools and colleges may have 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?
Some schools may be using their teaching assistants to help them deal with coronavirus measures. 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?
We know that last year, some schools or colleges had ‘bubbles’ and rules to minimise the amount of mixing between children in different groups. However, guidance on this has now changed across the UK. If your child is in a resource base or hub, the school should ensure they are able to move between the base and mainstream classes as usual.
- Has the school thought about how they will ensure your child can continue to access their education if they have to self-isolate?
Schools should have plans in place to ensure your child can continue to access learning even if they have to isolate at home. This may include online teaching. You should expect the school to think about how they can make this accessible to your child (for example, by ensuring live captions are enabled). If your child uses a radio aid they should be able to take it home.
- 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.
- Is your child worried about returning to school or their mental health.
The coronavirus lockdown has been very difficult for many children. Schools will be able to provide advice, support or signpost to organisations and services that can help. They should involve 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?
If face coverings are being 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.
Our coronavirus blog have more information on things that might be different for your child because of coronavirus. It also includes information on what the latest guidance from the different UK governments says.
Remember, if you need any help, information or support, you can contact our helpline.