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02.03.2021 | By Teresa Quail

March 2021 – BATOD update about face coverings in education settings

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BATOD update about face coverings in education settings

The UK governments have recently issued guidance around face coverings in education settings. Different rules exist in different parts of the UK about which you can find out more on the relevant regional websites:

This BATOD document outlines the following:

  • Steps BATOD is taking to support its members and deaf children and young people (DCYP) and their families
  • The vital role of QToDs for DCYP in education settings
  • Social distancing and face coverings and their potential impact on learning and social and emotional wellbeing on DCYP

How BATOD is supporting its members, DCYP and their families

BATOD is going discussions with the teaching unions across the UK on a number of items including the vital role of the QToD, the impact of Covid 19 on DCYP and their families, accessibility with regards to online learning platforms, the use of face coverings in schools and social distancing measures. Now more than ever, the expertise offered by QToDs is essential in all education settings where DCYP are educated.

BATOD and the Assistive Listening Technology Working Group created specific guidance on equipment in use with deaf children.

In January 2021, BATOD shared its latest members survey. A summary of the survey can be found here.

Since the start of pandemic BATOD has also been providing and sharing resources for virtual teaching and learning on the BATOD website. Please do keep sharing your resources as they are greatly appreciated by peers.

How DCYP are being impacted by infection control measures in schools

As QToDs we are well aware of the adverse impact of using a face covering for the deaf population and now more than ever specialist advice and input from QToDs are essential to ensure staff in education settings are aware of the challenges such as:

  • the lack of visual cues, including lipreading and also facial expressions to support understanding
  • accessing facial expressions, lip patterns and hand placement on the face to support those using BSL
  • accessing speech for those using listening technology
  • the compounding impact of background noise alongside compromised access to sound and lip patterns
  • the inability to see the whole face to attach meaning and support understanding
  • young children may be worried or put off from communicating with people who are wearing face coverings.

NB: References which provide evidence of this can be found at the end of this document.

In addition, there is potential disadvantage associated with social distancing measures which again can impede access to speech sounds and can also make lipreading harder. It is recommended that radio aids/ALD are used in such situations as well as all the usual deaf awareness strategies that are so vital and consistently shared by QToDs.

The guidance around face coverings in schools exists to support keeping everyone safe, limit the spread of the virus and enable access to face to face teaching. There are of course people who may choose to wear a face covering for the majority of their time in contact with others due to their own needs. BATOD recommends that face coverings with clear panels, which also allow as much of the face to be visible as possible, are used.

It is important to note that face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment).  Where PPE is essential, for example in a clinical setting, QToDs and other staff may be required to wear surgical masks which do not have a clear panel. CE approved clear panel masks are pending. The NDCS has some useful resources including an infographic to provide useful tips to support communication in situations like this.

BATOD’s position is clear. There is an essential need for the role of the QToD in providing specialist advice and support in education settings. QToDs are ideally placed to provide this guidance due to their specialist training, expertise and skills. Members are encouraged to be actively involved in all discussions and risk assessments for the education of DCYP. QToDs are essential in raising awareness of the need for clear face coverings and to highlight the challenges for DCYP in having access whenever any type of face covering is used. In addition, QToDs provide advice on the use of assistive listening technology, raise deaf awareness, share strategies to meet the needs of individual DCYP in their particular setting and provide educational and emotional support.

BATOD welcomes members sharing case studies including examples of where things are working well and also where challenges exist.

BATOD Steering Group

March 2021

Useful resources

The Mooc Centre conducted a study that outlines the effect of face covering and remote microphone technology

https://www.ndcs.org.uk/media/6209/face-covering-in-education-position-paper.pdf

Connevans generic ‘top-tip for communication in a world with masks’ poster (free) https://www.connevans.info/image/connevans/Communicating_with_masks.pdf

Atcherson, S. R., Mendel, L. L., Baltimore, W. J., Patro, C., Lee, S., Pousson, M., & Spann, M. J. (2017). The Effect of Conventional and Transparent Surgical Masks on Speech Understanding in Individuals with and without Hearing Loss. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 28(01), 058-067. https://doi.org/10.3766/jaaa.15151

Schiller, I. S., Morsomme, D., Kob, M., & Remacle, A. (2020). Noise and a Speaker’s Impaired Voice Quality Disrupt Spoken Language Processing in School-Aged Children: Evidence From Performance and Response Time Measures. J Speech Lang Hear Res, 63(7), 2115-2131