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 teachers were asked to wear face masks. 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.
After dramatic changes in Government policy across the nations, the charity, parents and deaf pupils across the country are now extremely concerned about the lack of clarity and feel this is a slippery slope towards face masks in classrooms – a move some schools have already made.
The National Deaf Children’s Society says that the UK Government has an immediate responsibility to put in place steps for the thousands of deaf children who will be affected by this policy change so that no deaf child is left behind.
The charity also warned that schools and colleges 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 isolate 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 fear, worry and anguish for deaf students and their families.
“Safety must be the number one priority, but parents will have an agonising choice if face masks are worn in classrooms. Either they send their child to school to face isolation, loneliness and a daily battle to understand their teacher, or they get fined for keeping them at home.
“Every child has the same right to a world-class education, so the Government must buy and distribute clear face masks to schools with 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.
“Deaf children are already facing the challenge of their educational lifetimes to catch-up after lockdown and school closures. They cannot 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.”