Thousands of school children are to start improving their spelling this month by learning British Sign Language, as they take part in the National Deaf Children’s Society’s (NDCS) Fingerspellathon, in aid of deaf children.
More than 5,000 children from 192 schools across the UK are set to take part in the national challenge, which aims to raise vital funds for deaf children, many of whom underachieve at school. Pupils will learn the signs for each letter of the alphabet and practice spelling with their hands. As well as raising funds, the Fingerspellathon will support spelling lessons and teach children how some deaf people communicate.
Rachel Shenton, who plays Mitzeee Minniver in Hollyoaks and is a former British Sign Language interpreter, is a strong supporter of the NDCS Fingerspellathon: “I know from my experience with deaf children that many find it hard to make friends and often feel isolated, as they can find it hard to talk to other children. I’d like to thank and congratulate all the schools and pupils who have joined the Fingerspellathon so far – you are helping deaf children to have a brighter future.”
Children across the UK will be sponsored to take part in activities ranging from fingerspelling their names at morning registration to a spelling bee competition with children testing each other on how many words they can fingerspell per minute, as part of an assembly on deaf awareness.
Joanne Lilley, Teaching Assistant at Woodbank School in Bury, said: “Our pupils are very excited about taking part in the NDCS Fingerspellathon. Learning to fingerspell will definitely add an extra element of fun to our classes, and help children learn about what it is like to be deaf and how some deaf people communicate.”
Clare Salter, Community Events Managerat NDCS, said: “We have been amazed by the support our Fingerspellathon has received. The money raised by schools and children taking part will help fund events, training and vital support for deaf children and their families.
“British Sign Language is the first language of an estimated 70,000 people in the UK, and we hope that many more schools will introduce their children to this wonderful language over the next year. It’s not too late to sign your school up so please visit www.ndcs.org.uk/fingerspell.”
There are 45,000 deaf children in the UK and 85 per cent attend mainstream schools, making deaf awareness, and support to break down the communication barriers that deaf children face, crucial. The deaf children and young people that NDCS works with say that they want other children to be more understanding about what it’s like to be deaf, and NDCS has named raising deaf awareness as one of the charity’s key aims for the next six years.
Schools who have signed up to the Fingerspellathon have received a teaching resource packed with a range of activities for pupils and supporting materials, including information on childhood deafness. Schools can still sign up to the challenge throughout the year and get access to NDCS’s Fingerspellathon schools’ pack at www.ndcs.org.uk/fingerspell.