Head teacher forced to use sign language at school of 24 nationalities
Staff and pupils at a primary school where 26 different languages are spoken are learning sign language so they can communicate with each other.
Of the 311 children at Fairlight Primary School in Brighton, East Sussex, 55 are from overseas, originating from a total of 24 countries.
Between them, they speak 26 languages ranging from Spanish and Polish to Arabic and Mandarin Chinese.
The school's new head teacher, Damien Jordan, realised he and the other teachers would struggle unless they found a way to communicate with all of the pupils, but it would be impossible for them to learn all the different languages.
So he and his staff have learned how to use the basics of Makaton , a form of signing that involves speech and facial expressions as well as gestures, and are now using it in classes with children as well.
Recent figures show one in seven primary school pupils in England now speaks English as a second language, up from one in 10 in 2004, and more than 50 languages are spoken in some schools.
Mr Jordan, who at 36 is one of the youngest head teachers in the area, said: "I need to be able to communicate in some form with all of the pupils and their families so I have been learning the basics in several different tongues and have been training in a sign language called Makaton, which has been designed for use in schools.
"It means that at times when children might get frustrated that they can't make themselves understood, you can still communicate with them."
He added: "We are submerged in English but we are also learning to sign because language is so important. Because Makaton is new to all of us, we are learning together and that creates a sense of community.
"It's early days but everyone is involved and it is something that we are genuinely proud of doing."
Mr Jordan said Fairlight was Brighton's most diverse school, as many of its pupils are the children of international students or academics who work at nearby universities.
"I think the reason why we attract so many children from different backgrounds is because parents have got to hear about our reputation for doing things well," he said.
"Also, we are situated near both universities in Brighton and the city is a very diverse place anyway."
Mr Jordan added that their experience at Fairlight will equip his pupils with communication skills that are vital in the modern, globalised age.
He said: "Some of them already speak two or three languages before they come to school, which is remarkable."
Makaton was developed in Britain in the 1970s by a speech therapist as a way to help people with learning disabilities communicate better, and is now used in 40 countries around the world.
Some of its hand gestures are similar to those of British Sign Language, which is used primarily by deaf people, but it also involves simple forms of speech and facial expressions.
Users begin by learning a list of 450 important core signs and symbols but the system allows more than 7,000 concepts, including more complex and abstract ideas, to be communicated.
Source: Daily Telegraph
What do you think of this novel way of communicating? What gestures do you use to communicate with people? Keep it clean!!