Breaking down barriers with BSL
Children at Watchlytes Primary School are being given the opportunity to learn British Sign Language (BSL).
The Welwyn Garden City school now offers weekly lessons to pupils from Reception to Year Five after research highlighted the positive impact of learning BSL. The classes are taught by an outreach worker, who also educates children about deaf awareness.
Nalisha Patel, Headteacher at Watchlytes, says: “The children have only been learning BSL for a short while and we are already seeing benefits. It’s helping them to communicate and fully express themselves and it has improved their social skills by increasing their confidence and self-esteem.
“We have three pupils at Watchlytes with cochlear implants and they were really happy when the classes started, not just from an inclusivity point of view but also because they felt represented within the school community.”
Studies have found that learning BSL can offer significant benefits for hearing children as well as deaf children. It improves vocabulary, memory retention and fine motor skills and has been linked to a higher reading age of up to two years.
The BSL classes are a new addition to Watchlytes since it joined Ivy Learning Trust at the end of 2022. All 14 primary schools in the Trust teach BSL to pupils.
Katy Miles, Year 2 teacher at Watchlytes, says she loves watching the children learning BSL. She adds: “It’s a real time of calm in the classroom and it’s amazing to see the focus on the children’s faces. They’ve picked it up quickly and I’ve noticed that they now use sign language without prompting, for example signing their name when I’m doing the register or telling me to have a good weekend on a Friday.
“For our children with additional needs, it’s also been a real boost to their confidence, not just because it improves communication but because it’s accessible for all learners and they’ve been able to enjoy learning a new skill with their classmates.”