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Schools and other education settings - coronavirus info for families of deaf children

Published Date: 20 Jul 2020

School closures

To help limit the spread of coronavirus, nurseries, schools, colleges and universities across the UK have been partially or fully closed. Many have remained open only for children of key workers or for children regarded as especially vulnerable and whose needs cannot be safely met at home (i.e. those who have significant other additional needs that mean they need ongoing personal care or significant social care support).

Differences between nations

The different UK governments are taking different approaches to the re-opening of education settings. Even with your nation, there may be differences in how this works in practice, depending on where you live. For example, some schools may introduce a ‘part-time’ timetable or ‘blended learning’, where your child will receive a mix of on-site and home learning. This means that some children may be asked to come in for part of the day or week, and to learn at home the rest of the time. There may also be a ‘local lockdown’ where schools in a specific area are asked to temporarily close for a short time.

If in doubt, you should speak to your child’s education setting to find out what their plans are for re-opening.


Currently, schools are remaining open, as much as possible, for children of key workers and children who are the most vulnerable.

The definition of ‘vulnerable’ children includes those who have an Education, Health and Care plan. Previously, Government advice was that these children should only attend school if they had significant other needs that meant they could not be safely cared for at home. This advice has now changed and the Government now expects and encourages ‘vulnerable’ children to attend school, where appropriate. 

Education settings are now able to re-open to other pupils, as follows:

  • All early years settings.
  • Primary aged pupils who are in reception year, year 1 or year 6 – i.e. those children who started primary school in the last year, or will be moving on to secondary school in the autumn.
  • Pupils who are in year 10 or 12, or pupils aged 16 to 19 in the first year of a two-year study programme will not be returning to school or college full-time – but they may be asked to return for some face-to-face time to support their home learning. This is to help them prepare for exams next year.
  • Special schools, colleges and post-16 institutions can re-open more widely to all pupils as they see fit.

Beyond this, primary schools have the flexibility to open to more pupils before the summer if they are able to. The Government has said that its aim is for all children to be back at school full-time in September.

Northern Ireland

Schools are expected to start re-opening from 24th August for Primary 7, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils and for vulnerable children across all year groups. All other pupils will return at normal start dates, which may vary depending on the school. It is expected that they will re-open with a mix of school and home learning in place. There will be a minimum 40% face-to-face teaching time in primary schools and a minimum 50% face-to-face teaching time in post-primary schools with the balance provided through blended learning.

The Government is funding additional emergency childcare provision to care for vulnerable children and children of key workers. Other childcare settings are now open for all parents, not just keyworkers, with guidance for childcare providers on how to operate safely.


In Scotland, the Government has said that schools will re-open from the 11 August, depending on scientific advice.

Childminders and outdoor early years settings are already allowed to re-open to some children. The Government has said that it hopes to allow other early learning settings to re-open during the summer but, at the time of writing, no date has yet been given.

In the meantime, schools and early learning settings are expected to remain open, as much as possible, for children of key workers and vulnerable children.


Schools and early year settings in Wales reopened from the 29th June. Whilst most schools have confirmed the term will end in line with normal term-times, some schools are extending the summer term by an extra week-therefore ending on 27th July. Please contact your school for more details.

Further education colleges have been asked to prepare to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15th June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners.

From September, all pupils in mainstream education in Wales will be able to return to school full time.

Schools can reopen from September 1st. However, the Welsh Government have granted schools the flexibility to spend the first two weeks concentrating on planning, reorganising and focussing on priority year groups such as: reception, years 6, 7, 12, 13, special units and those sitting exams next summer. Your school will be in contact to discuss arrangements. All pupils will be expected to return to school from September 14th unless they have a medical/health reason not to.

Please note that local authorities will not be expected to continue to provide emergency childcare provision in the autumn term.

Further government guidance will be published on supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and early years and nursery provision shortly.

What will happen when your child returns?

In order to limit the spread of coronavirus and keep children and teachers safe, children can expect some changes when they return. These may include:

  • Class sizes will be reduced to smaller groups or ‘bubbles’. Some groups may be led by a teaching assistant, working under the supervision of a teacher.
  • There may be limited mixing of groups within the school. Exemptions to this may need to be made for children to access specialist teaching in wider groups (for example, such as for a deaf child who attends part of the day in a resource provision).
  • Classroom layouts may change.
  • Break times are likely to be staggered. Drop-off and pick-up times may also be staggered.
  • Children will be expected to wash their hands regularly and follow new rules around social distancing.
  • Some teachers and teaching assistants may not be able to return to school if they have medical conditions which mean they’re more vulnerable to coronavirus or if they are pregnant.

In Wales, face coverings are only recommended in education where social distancing is difficult - for example, in the delivery of personal care. Schools have also been told to specifically consider the implications around face coverings for deaf children, as well as other learners.  

In the rest of the UK, the use of face masks in education settings has not been recommended by the other UK Governments. Exceptions to this are if a child has personal care needs which means protective equipment would normally be used anyway, or if a child develops coronavirus symptoms whilst at the education setting.

If your child receives specialist support in the classroom, it is likely there will be changes to how this is provided.

  • Education settings may want to restrict the number of external visitors coming in and ask for support to be provided remotely instead. This might include peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf. However, in England and Wales the Governments have explicitly said that peripatetic teachers can continue to visit schools.  
  • Some teaching assistants may be used differently. For example, they may be asked to ‘lead’ groups within the school. They may also be asked to observe social distancing rules when supporting individual children. Our view is that, where teaching assistants or communication support workers have a specific role in directly supporting individual deaf children, they should not be redeployed to other roles.
  • There may also be new hygiene restrictions around handling or sharing equipment and devices, such as radio aids. For example, you may be asked to carry out checks on all hearing equipment before your child goes into an education setting, even if this was normally done within the setting. In addition, teachers may be asked to ‘clean’ radio aids before using them. This must be done carefully to avoid damage to the radio aid. The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf have produced advice on this.

Some schools or colleges may be providing ‘catch-up’ support or tuition to individual children or young people. It is likely that they will focus on the most disadvantaged children or young people. It may be helpful for your child’s Teacher of the Deaf to be involved in advising on any such catch-up support or tuition, particularly if this support is provided by someone who has not worked with your child before.

Our blog sets out some possible questions for you to raise with your child’s school to ask how they will meet the needs of deaf children as they fully re-open. We have also produced more detailed guidance for education professionals (guidance also available in Welsh).

If you have any questions or concerns on how this will work in practice, you should speak to your child’s teacher, the person responsible for special or additional needs at the education setting, and your child’s Teacher of the Deaf. Whilst we recognise the challenges in this area, we encourage professionals to continue to be creative and flexible in ensuring that deaf children receive the support they need, as much as possible.

Even if your child falls into the category of those who can return, they should not attend if:

  • They are displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
  • They have a medical condition which means they’ve been asked to ‘shield’ from others.

Your child may also be asked not to attend if someone in your house has been asked to shield, and there is a concern that your child will not be able to follow or understand rules around social distancing.

If you are concerned that your child should not be attending school for health reasons, you should seek medical advice and discuss your concerns with the education setting.

Children are encouraged to return to education, as appropriate and if requested by the education setting. However, parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time. 

More information from the each of the UK Governments


Northern Ireland