Deaf pupils are ‘falling behind’ due to face masks in classrooms

·2 min read

Deaf children have been left struggling to communicate with friends and are “falling behind” with schoolwork following the return of face coverings in secondary school classrooms, a charity has warned.

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has called on parents of deaf children across England to email Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi about the impact face coverings are having on their children.

It says that face masks make lip-reading “impossible” and cover up “crucial” facial expressions.

The NDCS added that the Government should provide clear face coverings to schools and colleges with deaf pupils and set up a dedicated fund to pay for extra support, like radio aids and speech-to-text reporters for deaf pupils, while the wearing of masks continues.

The Government is set to review the use of face masks in secondary schools and colleges in England on January 26.

Earlier this month, the Government admitted that scientific studies on the impact of the use of face coverings in schools on reducing the spread of coronavirus were “not conclusive”.

An evidence review published by the Department for Education (DfE) found that studies had provided “mixed results” on their effectiveness in education settings.

It found that secondary schools where face coverings were used saw their average Covid-19 absence rate fall by 2.3 percentage points while secondary schools where masks were not used saw a fall in the absence rate of 1.7 percentage points.

But it concluded: “There is a level of statistical uncertainty around the result.”

Mike Hobday, director of policy and campaigns at the NDCS, said: “Face masks across the country are having a huge impact on England’s 45,000 deaf children.”

He added that “public health must be a priority” but that face coverings in class “mean that deaf children are being left out and left behind”.

“This is not acceptable,” he said.

“Deaf children tell us they are struggling to communicate with their mask-wearing friends, unable to consistently understand their teachers and falling behind in their schoolwork.

“The Government needs to take the urgent actions we’ve set out today to stop deaf children being failed.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know face coverings can be challenging for children with additional needs. That is why we have provided schools with clear guidance that teachers do not need to wear face coverings while teaching at the front of the classroom.

“The advice to wear a face covering also does not apply to anyone who works with children who rely on visual signals for communication, or for children and staff who are otherwise exempt.

“We will review the advice on face coverings on 26 January and will not keep them in place a day longer than is necessary.”

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