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Support for home learning - coronavirus info for families of deaf children

Published Date: 11 Jan 2021

Remote education

Though schools and colleges are closed for face-to-face teaching for most pupils, this should not mean that your child will stop receiving any education. Schools and colleges are instead expected to provide some kind of remote education.

What this looks like will vary. It may involve teachers delivering live lessons to your child’s class, with your child following a similar timetable as before. It could also involve children being given worksheets to do at home or directed to a website (such as Oak National Academy) for online learning.

In England, schools will be legally required to provide remote teaching if your child cannot attend school because of coronavirus. Schools are expected to provide three to five hours of teaching a day, depending on a child’s age. If this is not being provided, the Department for Education advises that parents should first contact their child’s teacher or headteacher, and then report the issue to Ofsted. We suggest you tick the ‘any other complaint’ on the webform on this page to refer the issue to Ofsted.

It will be important that any such remote teaching is accessible and appropriate to your child. Education settings are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your child can still access any teaching or learning.

Even after additional support is provided, if your child is finding it difficult to engage with remote learning, you should discuss with the school and your Teacher of the Deaf how they will make sure that your child can still access education.

Even where schools are closed, they are still expected to remain open for children of key workers or children who are considered ‘vulnerable’ in some way. In England, the definition of vulnerable children includes those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home. Depending on what education and support is being provided in schools in these cases, returning to school may be an option to consider for your child. 

More information about school closures can be found in our main education blog.

Some things to think about

  • Will teachers be taking steps to ensure that any remote teaching is deaf-friendly? We have produced a checklist for teachers with some tips on how they can ensure any remote learning is accessible for your child.
  • Are any online videos being subtitled? For example, BBC Bitesize are subtitling their new daily lessons, whilst all of the videos at the Oak National Academy are subtitled and many are BSL interpreted. More information on how others can make their resources accessible to deaf children and young people is available in our accessibility ‘how-to’ guidelines.
  • For online teaching, some software (e.g. Google Hangouts) is available with automatic captions (using speech recognition software) and there are some apps that do the same – however, the feedback we have from young people is that the reliability of these can vary so do check with your child how useful they find them.
  • Even if your child does not usually have communication support in class, they may require it for accessing remote teaching. Remote speech-to-text support and BSL interpreting are now both well-established and easily accessible. Your Teacher of the Deaf can help with exploring options for funding this.
  • Ask your child’s school or Teacher of the Deaf about bringing their radio aid home. For many deaf children, radio aids will allow them to continue their learning and access sound on their computers, tablets or mobiles. It may also help them to keep in touch with family and friends and avoid feelings of isolation.

In Northern Ireland, the Sensory Service has produced tailored guidance on online learning.

Access to equipment

If your child does not have a laptop or PC at home or if the internet connection is poor, you should speak to your child’s school or college to see if they can provide you with a laptop and/or an internet data package. Some mobile phone companies are also allowing free access to some education websites on their mobile phone packages.

Alternatively, it may be necessary for your child to continue to attend school so that they can use any laptops or computers at the school to access remote teaching or online learning.

It may also be worth speaking to your child’s Teacher of the Deaf to see if the local authority can help.

Your child’s Teacher of the Deaf may also be able to help if you think that using a radio aid or any other specialist equipment at home might help your child to access any online or remote teaching.

You can also apply to the Family Fund for a grant to buy any equipment you may need.

How you can support your child’s home learning

As with the first lockdown, many parents may feel daunted by the prospect of supporting your child’s learning at home, with everything else that is going on. Remember that there is no expectation that you should take on a new role as a ‘teacher’. Though schools are closed for face-to-face teaching, they should still be offering some kind of remote education.

Take a look at our website for some top tips on home learning. You can also download our Helping your deaf child to learn resources for families. The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf website also includes a list of useful resources for home learning.

More information about home learning can also be found on the UK Government websites: 

These are challenging times for everyone. If you need support, do ask your child’s school and Teacher of the Deaf for help, as well as your friends and family. Support may also be available through local groups for parents of deaf children where you live. Find out what support may be available in your area.

In Northern Ireland, the Sensory Service has published information on how they will be supporting families. The Education Authority in Northern Ireland has also published information about education for parents in British and Irish Sign Language.