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Derby school helps shape Government’s policy on British Sign Language

A GOVERNMENT minister paid a visit to a Derby school to learn about the importance of reducing barriers for deaf children and young people in education.

Staff and pupils at Royal School for the Deaf Derby, in Ashbourne Road, met with Tom Pursglove, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work to explain how education is delivered at the school in a combination of British Sign Language (BSL) and English.

Mr Pusglove was joined on the school visit by Craig Cowley, the co-chairman of the BSL Advisory Board and trustee of the school, and Derby North MP Amanda Solloway.

Headteacher Paul Burrows and Tom Pursglove MP with pupils in the primary school.

The visit followed the Government decision to recognise BSL as an official language and the advisory board has been set up to advise them on the implementation of the act.

Mr Pursglove said: “It’s been an enormous privilege to visit this school to see this inspirational place for myself. It has done so much to advance BSL and broaden opportunities for young people.

“I’m hugely inspired by what I’ve seen and the many conversations I’ve had that have really focussed on what we need to do to carry forward the BSL Act 2022. I want to broaden the use of BSL in our communities making sure that everyone is a good ally to deaf people.

“I want to see greater numbers of interpreters coming forward to help spread BSL best practice across the country and I’m really excited about what this opportunity presents to make our society an even more inclusive place than it is already.”

Derby has the second largest deaf population in the UK and the historic school is blazing a trail for deaf people by helping to shape the implementation of the new Act.

The recognition of BSL as an official language means that Government departments must promote and facilitate the use of BSL, meeting the needs of people who use sign language as their first or preferred language.

Students with Derby North MP Amanda Solloway, Tom Pursglove MP, headteacher Paul Burrows and Craig Cowley.

Head teacher Paul Burrows said: “The British Sign Language Act is a key step to removing some of the barriers experienced by deaf people in everyday life and we are very happy to support the work being done to promote BSL.

“Here in school, we teach both English and BSL because, although sign language is the first language of many of our students, we live in an English-speaking world. Many deaf children are born to hearing parents and we provide opportunities to both hearing and deaf parents to learn BSL in school.

“We aim to accelerate both languages and we employ both hearing and deaf staff. In fact, we have the largest number of qualified teachers of the deaf in the East midlands and we expect all members of staff to achieve level three in BSL.

“We want to be a bilingual school and our hope is that the city will become bilingual in a similar way.”

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