By s.fenn 10th May 2024

As the UK’s leading environmental education charity, this Deaf Awareness week we’ve come up with some top tips to help teachers improve outdoor residential experiences for school children with hearing impairments.

According to research, there are approximately 33,000 deaf children in schools in England alone with 84 per cent of deaf children in mainstream schools.

Jo Harris, our newly appointed head of education says: “With so many young deaf children in mainstream schools we want teachers to feel confident about being able to support those learners with as many positive educational experiences as possible including outdoor residential and day trips.

“We understand that being away from school and home for a school trip either for one day or several days can seem a daunting prospect for all teachers and children and even more so for a child who has additional needs such as a hearing impairment.

“However, with some careful planning and greater awareness of the needs of deaf learners it is possible to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease so they can have a brilliant time and get the most out of the learning experience.

“We have been speaking to our own employees who have a hearing impairment and they are keen to share some top tips on things to consider when planning trips for deaf learners and we really hope teachers will benefit from their advice.”

Lorna Harvey

Education team leader Lorna Harvey who is based at our Epping Forest field centre, which welcomes in the region of 38,000 learners a year.

Lorna has always been hard of hearing and has worn hearing aids for the last 20 years. Her preferred method of communicating is lip reading but she has said it can be challenging.

“My best bit of advice for teachers is to be aware that lip reading and using hearing aids are tiring so by the end of the day learners will probably have less ability to understand and take on board instructions.”

She also explained that it was key for teachers to support young people with hearing impairments by helping to position them when either outside or in the classroom.

“Teachers need to be aware of the acoustics for young learners and where they are positioned. For example, the sun might impact on their ability to lip-read what the instructors are telling them, and the wind can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of their hearing aids.

“Indoors, if classrooms are being used for group-work then it’s important for teachers to ensure that all people in the group are seated or positioned in a way that they are always visible to the child with a hearing impairment.”

Charlotte Pringle

Charlotte Pringle, 32, works as an admin and customer relations team lead here at Field Studies Council and is also based at Epping Forest.

She was diagnosed with a hearing impairment at the age of two and also relies heavily on being able to lip-read.

“I love the outdoors and think it’s important for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to have access to opportunities in the outdoors.

“My best bit of advice to teachers organising a school trip for any learner that has a hearing impairment is to ensure they are grouped with their friends – other children who know them and will be able to help them participate where information might be missed or misheard.

“I don’t remember much about my own Year 6 trip to Brixham but I do remember sharing a small cabin with three of my best friends and we had lots of fun.”

Other useful tips for teachers include:

Before you go:

  • Meet with family members in advance of the trip to discuss specific requirements, routines etc and plans for the trip so an assessment can be made about suitable activities and adjustments planned for.
  • Ensure all teachers involved in the school trip are aware of the child’s hearing impairment, their needs and how they like to communicate.
  • Speak to external school trip providers in advance to discuss a child’s specific requirements. Many providers have staff who have undergone deaf awareness training or like us, employ people who have first-hand experience and know what it’s like to live with a hearing impairment.
  • Talk to children about the trip in advance to reduce any anxiety and encourage questions.
  • Learn some outdoor related sign language which might be useful especially if a student is high up on a climbing wall or doing a wet activity (or in the rain!) where hearing aids have been removed. British Sign Language run some useful courses
  • Make sure in advance that you know how to assist a student who might need help removing their hearing aids or other technology for activities. Full instructions from parents might be required on this.

During the trip:

  • Make sure the child knows that if they feel uncomfortable at any point they can discuss their concerns with you or another member of staff on the trip. Reassure them that you will maintain contact with home so that arrangements to either video call or text can be made if they start to feel homesick.
  • As mentioned previously, take special care to ensure that any child with hearing difficulties is grouped with their close friends so they can support and help where needs be.
  • Always try to be mindful of how different conditions, particularly outdoors, might impact on a child with hearing difficulties. For example, think about proximity to roads, weather conditions and other external factors which might interfere with hearing technology such as hearing aids.
  • Similarly to above, different conditions can also impact on lipreading. So make sure any speakers/instructors/tutors are made aware of where they position themselves.

Interested in our school trips? Our mission is to provide opportunities for everyone to connect with the environment. Our school trips are packed full of hands-on, safe and memorable experiences.