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Why deaf pupils want the city of Derby to sign with the times

Why deaf pupils want the city of Derby to sign with the times

CHILDREN at the historic Royal School for the Deaf Derby are launching a campaign to encourage people across the city to learn sign language so they can communicate with the large deaf community.

The pupils are marking British Sign Language (BSL) Week, which runs until March 19, by holding a series of events to promote its use by the wider population and for greater understanding of hearing loss.

It is estimated that the deaf population in Derby is at least three times higher than the national average, and that only London has a larger number of deaf residents.

Students at the Ashbourne Road school hope to use the national awareness week, which is based around the theme ‘Protect our BSL’, to inspire larger numbers of people in the city to learn some basic sign language.

A group of year five children visited neighbouring Ashgate Primary School to teach them some signs and talk about the importance of deaf awareness. While another group attended Reigate Park Primary Academy, which has a unit for deaf pupils, to work with students there.

A pupil from Royal School for Royal School for the Deaf Derby teaches BSL to pupils in a mainstream school.

Children have also made placards explaining the importance of signing which they will be taking on parade around the school grounds. And older pupils will be visiting the University of Derby to talk to staff and students about the importance of BSL.

Head teacher Paul Burrows said: “BSL is a wonderful language and I say that as a relatively new appointment at the school, who is learning to use sign language himself. We use BSL every single day, in every single lesson, and everyone here is keen to promote it because it’s a unique, visual and beautiful language.

“During BSL Week we hope to show other schools locally the benefits of offering sign language as part of their curriculum and to inspire hearing children to learn some basic signs too.

“It’s hard for hearing people to understand just how overwhelming it can be for a deaf person to walk into a shop for example and not be able to be understood. Equally, a simple sign such as ‘how are you?’ is received with such pleasure and can really make a difference to the lives of the very many deaf people in the city.

“Of course, greetings are only the start, but we hope that by teaching these basics it will create curiosity in others and a desire to continue to learn BSL.”

The national awareness week is held every March to mark the anniversary of the recognition of BSL by the British Government in 2003. Last year, the British Sign Language Act finally passed into law making BSL a recognised language across the UK.

British Sign Language is a rich combination of hand gestures, facial expressions and body language and, like English, has its own grammar, syntax and lexicons.

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