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Should all children be taught sign language? Why this Ipswich school thinks so

PUBLISHED: 14:46 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:46 28 January 2020

Sign language instructor George Andronic at Parkside Academy in Ipswich with pupils Adam Smith, Olivia Ashcroft and Kieron Chorlton. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Sign language instructor George Andronic at Parkside Academy in Ipswich with pupils Adam Smith, Olivia Ashcroft and Kieron Chorlton. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

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A school in Ipswich has decided to teach sign language to all its pupils - in a bid to "overcome the hidden state of inequality that exists in the deaf community".

Sign language instructor George Androni teaches a pupil at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.Sign language instructor George Androni teaches a pupil at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Traditionally most people do not learn sign language unless they need to communicate regularly with a deaf person, or having hearing difficulties themselves.

But Parkside Academy in Ipswich has challenged this, saying deaf communities are "separated by widespread misunderstanding and social inequality".

The Raedwald Trust school believes that if more people know sign language, whether they are deaf or not, the easier it will be for people hard of hearing to communicate with everyone.

As such it has appointed experienced British Sign Language (BSL) teacher George Andronic to teach lessons to all of its 11 to 16-year-old pupils, following a successful two-month trial.

Sign language instructor George Androni teaches pupils at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.Sign language instructor George Androni teaches pupils at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Angela Ransby, chief executive of the Raedwald Trust, said: "BSL is a beautiful, dynamic, visual language that requires people to use their hands, bodies and faces to express themselves.

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"This makes it particularly relevant at the Raedwald Trust, where many of our pupils find it challenging to identify and express their opinions and their emotions.

"Introducing our pupils to BSL means not only giving them new skills in an official modern language - it also gives them the opportunity to make a difference in a world where deaf and hearing communities are separated by widespread misunderstanding and social inequality.

Sign language instructor George Andronic at Parkside Academy in Ipswich with pupils Adam Smith, Olivia Ashcroft and Kieron Chorlton. Picture: Lauren De Boise. Sign language instructor George Andronic at Parkside Academy in Ipswich with pupils Adam Smith, Olivia Ashcroft and Kieron Chorlton. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

"Deafness is a communication barrier, not a disability. If every young person had the chance to learn to sign, we could break down these obstacles and overcome the hidden state of inequality that exists in the deaf community."

The move comes as education minister Nick Gibb confirmed government plans to introduce a BSL GCSE as soon as possible.

Ms Ransby praised Mr Andronic as an "excellent and experienced teacher".

She added: "As with any language, when you learn sign language you're entering another world with its own history and culture.

Sign language instructor George Androni teaches pupils at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.Sign language instructor George Androni teaches pupils at Parkside Academy in Ipswich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

"George embodies all of this, and for me that is why he's the ideal person for the job."

The Raedwald Trust provides education for children and young people who are unable to attend mainstream schools in Suffolk because of their medical or mental health needs, or because they have been excluded from their permanent education provision.

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