The return of masks to classrooms will fill thousands of deaf pupils with dread, a charity has warned.
Face coverings have been reintroduced into secondary schools in England following a rise in Covid-19 cases, charities fear the impact this will have on deaf children.
A recent study conducted by the National Deaf Children’s society (NDCS) found that over seventy per-cent of parents felt face masks had impacted their child’s learning.
Jo Campion, Deputy Director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said the ‘return of face masks in schools will deaf students with dread’.
“Whenever face masks are worn, lip reading becomes impossible and this will leave thousands of them struggling to communicate, especially during the important social opportunities school life provides.”
The World Health Organisation has acknowledged that mask wearing may result in children missing learning opportunities and further learning barriers.
‘She finds it hard to cope in class’
Although exemptions are in place and teachers can remove masks when interacting with deaf pupils, the National Deaf Children’s society says that this they can ‘make communication very difficult for deaf children and young people’.
Michelle, 59 said that masks have certainly had an impact on her 14 year-old daughter.
“Masks have not just impacted her learning but also interactions with her peers, she depends on lip reading, so even if teachers wear clear shields, her friends don’t” she said.
The Southampton mother-of-two says that teachers use a microphone in lessons to help her daughter, although masks often muffle sounds.
Michelle, not her real name says that as the microphone is passed between teachers, some have become ‘wary’ about using it.
“In some lessons her microphone doesn’t work, which means she is falling behind and at times finds it hard to cope in classes” she said
She adds that ‘masks have impacted her mental health and her friendships’.
Another parent said that although her son has classroom support, ”mask wearing has made him feel more isolated’.
“It’s very difficult [for him] to communicate with friends at break times when masks must still be worn” she said.
Jo Campion said “Public health is the priority, but the law is very clear; schools and colleges must do everything they can to meet the needs of deaf students”.