Teaching BSL and STILL expecting the deaf won't rely on help, not make sense.
Brimsdown Primary School is a mainstream school in Enfield, North London, with a hearing impairment resource base – HIRBiE.
If you ask any of the staff at Brimsdown they will tell you how important inclusion is to us as a school. We firmly believe that every child deserves the right to be treated equally and to receive the same quality of education as everyone else. HIRBiE has been operating for 11 years at Brimsdown and runs special staff and family signing lessons during the day and after school, teaches British Sign Language (BSL) to all children from Nursery to Year 6, and runs a unique workshop where anyone interested in learning about signing, deaf awareness and deaf issues is welcome to join.
BSL is not a translation of English – it has its own linguistics and a very different grammatical structure. We encourage all children and staff to be confident with developing their use of facial expression and body language as this helps with the clarity of their communication. In the past, very few staff or hearing children in the school could sign. Good communication was always valued and respected, but we wanted the HIRBiE team to show this wonderful language throughout the whole school.
There was also a need to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf people, and so over the last three years, BSL has become an important part of our school curriculum. Deaf children should not solely rely on their Communication Support Workers (CSWs) to communicate between hearing staff and children. For example, at playtime, if a CSW was not outside then deaf children experienced communication breakdown and could become isolated.
Due to our wonderful HIRBiE provision and inclusive approach, our deaf children are independent and more confident Staff at Brimsdown have noticed that all children with special educational needs, for example, autism, really enjoy and focus on signing. Why is this? Because it is a visual language. In May 2018, during Deaf Awareness Week, a new teacher at the school commented at the end of the week on how much the whole class benefited from this participation. This important part of the school has improved the lives of not only deaf children but all our pupils.
In the beginning, BSL greeting signs such as ‘Good morning/afternoon’, ‘Please’ and ‘Toilet’ started to be taught during 20 minute, timetable, weekly BSL Studies lessons. These lessons are taught by highly qualified Deaf Instructors and have continued with our Deaf Instructors creating our own BSL curriculum for the children. The profile of BSL has continued to be raised through a Sign of the Week during assemblies and Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6) Singing Assemblies being fully signed and all children being taught signs to the songs they are learning.