ONE in four deaf children across the UK could struggle at school because their teachers are wearing face masks or coverings in class, new research shows.
According to the National Deaf Children’s Society’s research with more than 500 parents, 27% said that some or all of their deaf child’s teachers were wearing a face mask or covering during lessons.
All four Governments across the UK say face masks and coverings are not currently necessary or recommended in classrooms and the charity says unless schools act quickly, deaf children will struggle even more academically because they won’t be able to understand their teacher.
The survey also shows that face masks and coverings become much more common as the age of pupils increases. In colleges and sixth forms, almost half of respondents (49%) said that at least some of their child’s teachers were wearing them during lessons. One in ten (9%) said all teachers were wearing them.
One in three (34%) said that some or all teachers were wearing them in secondary schools and one in six (16%) said the same for primary schools.
Deaf children in England already achieve less than their hearing classmates at every stage of school, including an entire grade lower at GCSE on average, and there are serious gaps between the results of deaf and hearing children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
With face masks and coverings becoming widespread in classrooms, the National Deaf Children’s Society says that the gap will now get wider unless urgent action is taken because almost all deaf children rely on lip-reading to understand what others are saying.
As a result, the charity is calling on schools to consult specialist staff, parents and deaf children every step of the way to make sure lessons remain accessible, particularly as the survey revealed just a third (30%) of parents were included in discussions about face coverings in class.
It also wants schools to introduce every reasonable adjustment possible to make sure deaf children aren’t disadvantaged, such as providing transformational technology like radio aids, organising more communication support and increasing deaf awareness among pupils and staff.
In addition, the charity says that all UK Governments must make sure its guidance clearly explains the impact of face coverings on deaf children, whilst also giving schools and teachers the information and funding they need to make reasonable adjustments for every deaf pupil.
Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:
“Teachers across the country are battling to educate the next generation and keep everyone safe in extremely challenging circumstances.
“However, the UK’s 50,000 deaf children are part of that next generation and if face masks or coverings are used in class, it must not be at the expense of their education, life chances and mental wellbeing.
“Major changes like this must be discussed with specialist staff, parents and deaf children themselves every step of the way to make sure that lessons are still accessible, particularly when they go directly against Government advice.
“Governments across the UK also need to make sure that the impact of face coverings on deaf children and the need for reasonable adjustments is crystal clear for schools.
“Education is a right, not a privilege, and this doesn’t change because you’re deaf.”