British Sign Language at Abbey Gate College thumbnail image British Sign Language at Abbey Gate College Published on 3rd October 2023

Two years ago, Rose Alying-Ellis captured the hearts of many with her astounding performance on Strictly Come Dancing.  Her silent dance was profound and for Abbey Gate College, she provided a positive role model for Elizabeth, a member of our community and her peers.

Abbey Gate College has always been known for its inclusivity and sensitivity and we are always keen to develop our co-curricular provision to offer the pupils wider experiences.

Therefore, when our Pupil Parliament requested that we introduce a British Sign Language club to our programme, we were only too keen to make this happen.  Mr Mayers, who is himself profoundly Deaf, began working with us two years ago and the activity has gone from strength to strength.

With the knowledge that hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK, we initially wanted to provide an activity that enabled pupils to broaden their awareness of the community they live in as well as learning a valuable new skill.

Research, however, has shown that there could be so much more to be gained from learning to sign.  Case studies around the world suggest that it can boost confidence and self-esteem, improve spatial reasoning, enhance the ability to recognise and interpret body language, improve reaction time and peripheral vision as well as having a range of cognitive benefits already associated with learning an additional language.

British Sign Language is now recognised as an official language, receiving Royal Assent in April 2022 and, having done our research and observed the benefits of the co-curricular activity firsthand, we decided to go one step further and introduce BSL onto our curriculum at the Infant and Junior School from September.

With the consultation underway to introduce BSL GCSE from September 2025, we hope to give our pupils a head start, but more importantly to continue to contribute to a more inclusive and equal society.