Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín visited Jordanstown School recently to check out the sign language classes funded by her department.
The Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) agreed to provide funding for the British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 and 2 classes for parents of Deaf children in response to lobbying from Newtownabbey woman Emma Rogers, whose son is deaf.
“As 90 per cent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, I am delighted that my department has been able to assist with providing these vital classes,” the Minister said.
“It is widely accepted that the key years for language acquisition for all children is 0-2 years and early intervention to teach sign language in this time span is fundamental to improving educational prospects.
“After meeting with Emma Rogers I felt it was necessary to help these parents to be able to communicate with their children.”
Responding to parents’ concerns about the appropriateness of Further Education Sign Language classes due to difficulties with childcare, the department has also provided funding for creche facilities at the school.
“I hope all the parents completing these courses have enjoyed them and have no doubt that they will benefit immensely from them,” the Minister added.
Anne Magee, principal of Jordanstown School, thanked the Culture Minister for her personal interest and support.
“It is so important that parents are equipped to communicate with their deaf child from as early an age as possible. I am also proud that both qualified deaf tutors of the Level 1 and 2 classes are former pupils of this school. They are a source of inspiration to our current pupils,” she said.
Emma Rogers commented: “We are absolutely delighted with the Minister’s decision to fund British Sign Language classes for families with Deaf children and welcome her decision to introduce the new framework.
“Communication, no matter what form it takes, should be accessible for everyone, and as parents we are so pleased we have been given the opportunity to learn to communicate with our children in what may be their first language.”
The post-primary school teacher added: “By learning BSL, Deaf children and their families will have the confidence to communicate with both the hearing and the Deaf communities and can feel fully included in both.”
• See more coverage in this week’s Times (February 18 edition), on sale now