Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Prime Minister gives big boost to family sign language

Posted by Ian Noon on August 2, 2011

How many opportunities does a MP get to ask the Prime Minister a question at Prime Minister’s Question Time? Not very often, would be my guess.

Which is why I’m doubly impressed that Malcolm Bruce MP has now asked two questions in three years focusing on deafness and sign language. Malcolm has a deaf daughter and is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness. Even so, to nobble the Prime Minister twice on this in front of everyone at the highest level is pretty dedicated.

Image courtesy of NDCS

The first question was to Gordon Brown in 2008; Malcolm asked if he would meet a delegation of sign language users. Gordon agreed and the meeting led to the government-funded project, called I-Sign. The National Deaf Children’s Society was a part of this and led on a workstream to increase access to family sign language. With 90% of deaf children born to hearing families, many families struggle to learn to communicate with their deaf child. Yet most local authorities offer pretty little support to families wanting to learn family-appropriate signs at convenient times at minimal cost. Through the I-Sign project, NDCS created a family sign language DVD and website and working with others helped to pilot special courses in the North West and South West. Do check out the website – it features a beautiful seaside town that makes me wish I could go and live in my computer.

The pilots are now over. But families still need support. Hence, the return of Malcolm Bruce at Prime Minster’s Question more recently to ask if David Cameron would consider rolling out the pilots to the rest of England.

The reply was once again very positive and encouraging. David described sign language as “incredibly valuable”, said the pilots had been “successful” and said he would ask the Department for Education to meet with Malcolm and another delegation. Bingo.

It will be no mean feat to get the Department for Education to agree to a roll-out. But thanks to Malcolm, the mission has made a promising first start. Will the Department refuse to expand on something the Prime Minister refers to as successful?

Watch this space.

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2 Responses to “Prime Minister gives big boost to family sign language”

  1. Mike said

    Maybe Mr Cameron can sort out the bizarre lack of funding for parents who want to learn sign language as well. I’m bemused that you can learn welsh in London for fun at massively subsidised rates, and yet parents of deaf children have to cough up £800 or more for BSL classes so they can better communicate with their child. Those who can afford to that is…

    I thought BSL was meant to be a recognised UK language?

  2. Am a Deaf American, and I do not know the organizations or people there. Its true 90 to 95% of Deaf Children are born to hearing parents, and lack BSL leaving the child to grow up till about age 5 to start schooling. That is robbing the child’s development in language, and brain development the first critical 2 years. Visual means of communication, and it has to be a real language and BSL is offically a language of choice. Its culturally developed by the Deaf Community and the child must be exposed to it, and the family as well. Otherwise its oppression and this audist society will oppose to this plan as well, and then where is BSL for the Deaf Babies and Deaf Children? It wont be allowed? Deaf Centered to the Core Deaf Community have every right to protect the Deaf Child’s true language. Natural Signed Langauge in each Country has an Language thats offfically used by the Deaf Comminity.. If it is BSL, so be it! No if but, nay or the Deaf BSL Ayesayers will come out and get you all! Not only England but America has the same problem and ASL is ours, and the Ayesayers will come out as well. Go away Naysayers! Don’t be afraid to fight back, it is clear BSL and ASL is the Deaf Birth Right’s language of choice!

    -MKB

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