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Deaf students need clear masks & other support whilst face coverings are worn in class

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As an A-level student with hearing loss, I am really worried that all students and teachers in secondary schools in England will now be asked to wear face coverings, including in class. There are 35,000 deaf students like me who will be put at serious disadvantage, because we need to read people’s lips to be able to understand what’s being said. Many of us will be left behind academically and will become socially isolated if we can’t communicate with our friends. I know I will feel isolated as the only deaf student in my year group – especially in classes that need debate and discussion. It’s not just deaf students that would benefit from this, but also those with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities). 

We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and clear face masks STILL aren’t available in schools and colleges where they’re needed by deaf students. The Government in England must do everything possible to make sure that we can still understand our teachers. They should make clear to schools and colleges that all necessary adjustments must be made, whether these are transparent face coverings, face shields or visors, note-takers or sign language interpreters, additional hearing technology, and so on. Telling teachers to be “sensitive” to the needs of deaf children is not enough. The government should also ensure all online resources and catch-up/tutoring sessions they are funding are accessible and available to deaf students who need them (i.e. subtitled and BSL). 

There needs to be extra support ready for deaf students before we return to school on 8th March or there will be a devastating impact on our education, mental health and on our futures. Online schooling has been a big challenge for many deaf young people, please don’t leave us behind yet again.