WATCH: Why deaf students struggle with face coverings

Video explaining why face coverings make it far harder for deaf pupils to communicate has been viewed thousands of times
8th November 2020, 10:59am

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WATCH: Why deaf students struggle with face coverings

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/watch-why-deaf-students-struggle-face-coverings
Schools Reopening: Why Doesn't The Government Make Face Masks Mandatory For Secondary School Students?

A video showing the difficulties that face coverings cause for deaf pupils has been viewed thousands of times.

Face coverings have been mandatory in classes for the upper three years of secondary school in Scotland since last week, a move which prompted the video by Erin McCluskey, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Viewed more than 4,000 times, it shows how communication becomes far more difficult because the difference between words such as "hello" and "goodbye" is unclear if someone's mouth is covered. She also gives other examples of words that become much harder to differentiate, such as "hospital" and "nurse", and "office" and "October".

This video is one of many examples why deaf students (mainly S4-6 with John Swinney's announcement regarding wearing a face mask in classes) is struggling. there should be no barriers in the educational setting. Young generation of deaf community is suffering. We can do better. pic.twitter.com/9vjThIbnu9

- Erin McCluskey MSYP (@MSYPCunNor) November 5, 2020

Of the many responses, one mother of a 16-year-old girl who relies partially on lip reading said: "Great video that really gets much-needed awareness out there."

Coronavirus: Face masks hinder deaf pupils' learning

A primary teacher wrote: "Really informative. I have to wear a mask in class whilst teaching as I can't maintain 2m. I have tried a clear panel mask to help deaf students but it fogs up so quickly. Not sure what we can do with no other resources or staff. Hoping for vaccine soon."


Background: Staff in Scottish schools told to wear face coverings

Coronavirus: Schools urged to close deaf pupils' learning gap

Qualifications: Schools are 'failing' deaf pupils, says charity

Long read: The school where hearing loss is no barrier to success


In October, the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) raised concerns about the use of face coverings in classes. Even before the changed guidance on face coverings in classes in Scotland, a UK-wide NDCS survey of more than 500 parents found that face masks and coverings became much more common throughout the UK as the age of pupils increases.

The NDCS says that, with the widespread use of face coverings, deaf children struggle even more academically because they are not able to understand their teacher.

In Scotland, one in 10 deaf children already leaves school without any qualifications, and less than half (43 per cent) achieve Highers and Advanced Highers, against almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of hearing children.

Alasdair O'Hara, NDCS head of policy for Scotland, said: "Teachers across the country are working hard to educate the next generation and keep everyone safe in extremely difficult circumstances. 

"However, there are almost 4,000 deaf children in Scotland and they're all part of that next generation. Where face coverings are worn in classrooms, it cannot 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 keep lessons accessible."

He added: "Teachers have a responsibility to make sure their deaf pupils' needs are being met and that they're not excluded from the education they're entitled to.

"Education is a right, not a privilege, and this doesn't change because you're deaf."

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