Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to provide clear facemasks to enable lip reading for deaf children in schools during the covid-19 outbreak.
On 10 May, the Department published updated guidance for schools, which included updated advice on face coverings in line with step 3 of the roadmap. The guidance can be found here:
As the guidance outlines, based on the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak and the positive progress being made, it is no longer necessary to recommend the additional precautionary face coverings measures put in place from 8 March.
From 17 May, in line with step 3 of the roadmap, face coverings will no longer be recommended for pupils in classrooms or communal areas in schools. Face coverings will also no longer be recommended for staff in classrooms. This is supported by Public Health England.
In all schools the Department continues to recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible.
The reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern. In all cases, any educational drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits of managing transmission. The Local Action Committee structure (bronze/silver/gold) should be used in such circumstances to re-introduce the use of face coverings. Immediate outbreak response (at the level of individual settings or a cluster of settings) remains for local directors of public health to advise on.
Where face coverings are recommended, our guidance remains that some individuals, including those who rely on visual signals for communication and those who communicate with or provide support to those who do, are exempt from wearing face coverings and the Department expects staff and pupils to be sensitive to those needs.
Where our guidance recommends face coverings, transparent face coverings can also be worn. Transparent face coverings may be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, the evidence to support this is currently very limited. Face coverings (whether transparent or cloth) should fit securely around the face to cover the nose and mouth and be made with a breathable material capable of filtering airborne particles.
The main benefit from a transparent face covering is that they can aid communication, for example enabling lip-reading or allowing for the full visibility of facial expressions, but this must be considered alongside the comfort and breathability of a face covering that contains plastic, which may mean that the face covering is less breathable than layers of cloth.
Schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils and students to support them to access education successfully. The Department has made this point clear in guidance.