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Sign of the times

Elm Tree Primary School students have been sharing their enjoyment of learning British Sign Language, which is now part of their curriculum.

Elm Tree is home to a Resource Base for the Deaf, and signing has become an important part of their efforts to communicate with children who are supported by the base. Earlier this year, they were thrilled to learn that one of their former pupils, Daniel Jillings, had been successful in his tireless campaigning to the government for BSL to become a GCSE subject.

Headteacher Mrs Halliday said: “Our children were already amazing at signing to sing in assemblies and for special festivals, so the decision to move towards learning to communicate with the deaf community through a BSL curriculum in weekly lessons was a natural progression.

“We were thrilled when Ann Jillings, Daniel’s mum, agreed to become our BSL teacher. From Year 1 to Year 6, our classes enjoy learning new signs and recalling and using learnt signs once a week with Mrs Jillings. Teachers and SLT are learning alongside the children and we are all keen to show how communication using BSL is about body language and finger spelling too.

“We have all learnt the alphabet and can interpret Mrs Jillings when she spells out words for us to sign in our lessons. Like any new language, the focus has been on using it and building in new words and phrases. In EYFS, the children are learning signs which link with their classroom and singing activities. BSL is an expressive language and enables children to learn how we communicate nonverbally.

“If we can teach our children to interact with members of the deaf community inside and outside of school to enrich the lives of others, then we have provided them with an important skill for life.”

Staff and students were excited to invite ITV Anglia News to the school in December to film them learning their new subject. This lead to additional coverage from the BBC and Heart, and over 75,000 Facebook shares – it was wonderful to reach so many people!