The Lowestoft Signing Choir performed in front of MPs in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 10 July, to remind them of the importance of British Sign Language (BSL), the barriers deaf children face, and to urge the Government to introduce a GCSE in BSL as soon as possible.
The choir is made up of many individuals with a connection to deafness – from deaf young people and adults, to people who work and volunteer with the deaf community, to those with deaf friends or family. They gave a signed interpretation of a number of popular songs, including Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s hit ‘Human’ and the Louis Armstrong classic, ‘Wonderful World’.
Peter Aldous MP, a key supporter of the campaign for a BSL GCSE and MP for Waveney, helped to organise the event. Others showing their support included Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Maria Caulfield MP and Dawn Butler MP.
After a campaign from the National Deaf Children’s Society and choir organisers Ann Jillings and her deaf son Daniel, the Government is now working to introduce a BSL GCSE.
Speaking about why she organised the event, Ann Jillings said:
“What a fantastic experience it was for us, performing in front of MPs in such a special venue. I really hope those who turned out to watch us were inspired by what they saw.
“A BSL GCSE will have a huge positive impact for deaf children like Daniel, for whom BSL is their first language. It will be an opportunity to achieve a GCSE in their native language and demonstrate their true academic potential.
“It will also mean that many more children can now learn sign language, so they’ll be able to chat with their deaf friends and learn a language that will help them communicate with deaf people in their adult life.”
Sally Etchells at the National Deaf Children’s Society said:
“We were delighted to support the Lowestoft Signing Choir in Parliament. They gave a fantastic and really moving performance of some great songs.
“This event was really important in order to raise awareness of the campaign for a GCSE in British Sign Language. This GCSE is currently being developed, but we want to keep up the pressure, so that deaf children across the country can gain this qualification as soon as possible.”
Peter Aldous MP added:
“It was wonderful to have the Lowestoft Signing Choir at Portcullis House. They do brilliant work in throwing a spotlight on Deaf Awareness, locally and nationally.
“Members of the choir Daniel Jillings and his mother Ann Jillings have campaigned tirelessly to secure a BSL GCSE, which would enable deaf students to sit a GCSE in their first language, greatly improving the opportunities of deaf children up and down the country.
“I am pleased that the Department for Education has committed to bring forward the BSL GCSE and hopefully preparations will be made in time for Daniel to sit his exams.”