Call for all schools to teach sign language ‘to make world more inclusive’
Nearly 100,000 people sign a petition set up by a teenager calling for greater young people to be able to learn sign language.
Nearly 100,000 people have signed a petition set up by an 18-year-old calling for all schools to teach basic sign language.
Jade Kilduff, 18, launched the campaign after seeing how sign language transformed her younger brother’s life.
Christian, four, has brain damage and cerebral palsy and his family were told he would never be able to communicate, so Jade spent two years teaching him sign language.
“Christian communicates by using sign language and a lot of people when talking to Christian would have to talk through me,” Jade told Sky News.
“And I thought it was unfair that he could only communicate to me and a few of our family members and I thought if everybody just knew a little bit of sign then it would make the world more inclusive.”
Her petition, which has almost 100,000 signatures, could have a wide impact as there are 12 million people with hearing loss in the UK – around one in six people.
There are 50,000 children in the UK with hearing impairments but very few mainstream schools that teach British sign language.
Lyndhurst Primary School in Oldham introduced signing five months ago. They weave sign language into lessons, assemblies and conversation.
It was initially introduced to help three pupils with hearing impairments but the school has seen the positive impact it’s had on other children too, with some pupils even using it to communicate as they pass each other in the corridor.
“We’ve got many children in here who have got autism and for the first time since introducing sign language we’ve had them communicate with us for the first time,” education communicator Amy Scoltock said.
“And you’ve got the quieter children who would quietly just say good morning in sign to each other. As a school we are just all communicating better.”
Bharti Raza is profoundly deaf and now works as an educational communicator at the school translating lessons into sign language for children with hearing impairments.
She recalls being made to sit on her hands at school as a child to stop her from signing – and describes the torment of not being able to understand or communicate in class.
“In school, teachers told me I wasn’t allowed to sign. I had to sit on my hands.” she said.
“I’d secretly sign with my friends, which was fantastic, but in school there was no signing so the teacher would talk and talk and I wouldn’t understand. I would miss it. I found it very stressful and hard. I found it hard to communicate even with my own family.”
A Department for Education spokesperson responded to the petition, telling Sky News: “We are firmly committed to ensuring that children with SEND (special educational needs and disability), including hearing impairments, receive the support they need in early years, at school and at college.
“Schools have the freedom to include British Sign Language (BSL) in their curriculum if they wish to do so, and we are working towards a BSL GCSE which will be introduced as soon as it possible, subject to meeting GCSE requirements.”