Only a third of parents plan to send their deaf child to school if face masks are introduced in the classroom, according to a new survey.
The research, carried out by the National Deaf Children’s Society among 800 parents of deaf children, shows that just 36 per cent were likely to send their child to school if teachers were asked to wear face masks while teaching.
A further one in five (19 per cent) were uncertain about what they would do.
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The charity has now called on the government to ensure schools with deaf pupils have access to clear face masks.
The poll was carried out following a U-turn by the Department for Education over the wearing of masks in English schools.
The DfE announced last week that masks will be expected to be worn by secondary school staff and pupils in communal areas if the school is in a high-risk area.
It is also giving schools the discretion to make wearing masks mandatory.
The DfE has said that wearing masks in classrooms will “not generally be necessary.”
However, the National Deaf Children’s Society said it is concerned that the new policy could be a “slippery slope” towards masks being worn by staff as they teach.
In a statement, it said: “While face coverings are not currently recommended in classrooms, teachers can choose to wear them.
“After dramatic changes in government policy across the nations, the charity, parents and deaf pupils across the country are now extremely concerned about the lack of clarity and feel this is a slippery slope towards face masks in classrooms – a move some schools have already made.”
Ian Noon, chief policy advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: "In the decades I’ve worked in education policy, I’ve never seen a policy rollout that’s happened so quickly and caused so much fear, worry and anguish for deaf students and their families.
“Safety must be the number one priority, but parents will have an agonising choice if face masks are worn in classrooms.
"Either they send their child to school to face isolation, loneliness and a daily battle to understand their teacher, or they get fined for keeping them at home.
“Every child has the same right to a world-class education, so the government must buy and distribute clear face masks to schools with deaf pupils.”
The charity highlighted the issue with comments from a teenager who is severely to profoundly deaf.
Polly, who is 15, from London, said: “As I’m going into Year 11 in September, I’m especially concerned about face masks in schools. I’ve already missed most of my first year of GCSEs because of Covid-19 and I worry lots of my learning next year will be missed because of face masks.
“I use a radio aid in lessons, but I still rely on lip-reading and speech clarity to learn effectively. Face masks remove both of these options and it means I won’t be able to understand what my teacher is saying.”