Student answers call for sign language club

A SIXTH form student has established a thriving British Sign Language Club at Ripon Grammar School after younger pupils told her they wanted to learn to communicate with people with hearing difficulties.

Pastoral prefect and founding member of the student-led Equalities Society, Lucy McClean has recruited round 20 keen pupils to the lunchtime club.

So far, they have learned signs for family members, pets, numbers, colours and the alphabet. All will now be enrolling on an accredited online foundation course, which will enable them to sign fully formed sentences.

Aspiring medical student Lucy, 16, who has already used her sign language skills during work experience at a doctors’ surgery, said she first realised there was a demand for sign language classes when she volunteered with a first form history class.

“Some of the students were really interested in learning BSL but, at the time, there was no way for them to them to do so within school.

“I decided to establish the club to allow them to learn a new and exciting method of communication, and also to develop my own communication skills.”

Most deaf people who use sign language in the UK use BSL, a rich combination of hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. Like English, it has its own grammar, syntax and lexicons.

Lucy, from Knaresborough, who is taking chemistry, biology and history at A-level along with an extended project qualification on healthcare inequality, is urging more students to learn to have conversations in BSL.

“It’s vitally important to improve and aid inclusivity and communication within RGS and the wider Ripon community.

“I have gained a better understanding of BSL and have improved my skills while enjoying teaching lower school pupils and sharing my enthusiasm.”

BSL was first recognised by the UK government as a language in its own right in March 2003. It is believed there are around 70,000 people who use BSL as their preferred language.