Eastbury Primary School bridges deafness divide

PUBLISHED: 09:21 09 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:12 16 June 2015

The Mayor of Barking and Dagenham Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe, visits deaf pupils at Eastbury Primary School

The Mayor of Barking and Dagenham Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe, visits deaf pupils at Eastbury Primary School


In a move to meet a “significant increase” of severe hearing impairment in pupils, the council will fund sign language learning at Eastbury Primary School from this year’s summer term.

It will be the borough’s second additional resource provision, joining one at Five Elms Primary School.

Majella Williams, head of deaf provision at Eastbury Primary School, said she wants Barking and Dagenham to help promote a wider use of sign language.

The council has agreed to fund £10,000 per place at the school in a borough where the number of deaf pupils has risen from 100 in 2007 to 120 in 2015.

“I would like Barking and Dagenham to try to be the first sign language-inclusive borough,” she said. “Deaf people are the most invisible and left-out when we talk.

“If the rest of the world could sign then they wouldn’t be disabled – even if you only learn a little, any sign is better then no sign.

“I do 15 minutes a week in assembly signing and singing songs and run after-school classes.”

Majella said some of her pupils reached level one in six weeks of hour-long tutorials, despite standard level one courses being a year of weekly two-hour classes.

And she thinks that’s good news for hearing children too, as it bridges divides in a school with more than 50 languages spoken.

“Sign language inclusion helps everyone,” she said. “I would like to see people learning sign language as a second language – it’s the fourth most popular language in the UK.

“And research shows children under two years old who sign are calmer and don’t have as many tantrums.

“It’s because they can negotiate and communicate.”

Cllr Darren Rodwell said funding was a great move for the cabinet to make and praised the school’s progress.

“I think it’s great we’re doing this,” he said. “Funding is a formality if the learning is already there.”

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