A DEAF children’s charity is calling for urgent action to stop teachers wearing face masks in the classroom.
Research by the National Deaf Children’s Society finds that one in four teachers are wearing face covering during lessons – despite Government advice not to do so.
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 charity’s chief executive, Susan Daniels, 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.”
The charity’s survey 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 NDCS says 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.
Susan Daniels, added: “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.”
There are more than 50,000 deaf children in the UK. Five babies are born deaf in the UK every day.
- NDCS Helpline 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), on InterpreterNow (interpreternow.co.uk/ndcs), by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or through online chat at www.ndcs.org.uk/livechat