Teenage campaigner Jade Chapman sets up sign language course with prize

Jade Chapman (left) with her sister Laura Image copyright Jade Chapman
Image caption Jade Chapman (left) said her fears over the future of sister Laura (right) prompted her to set up the signing course

A teenager who won £1,000 for her campaign to get sign language taught in schools has used the prize to start a special class at her old high school.

Jade Chapman, 17, of Dereham, Norfolk, set up Let Sign Shine last year, prompted by fears for her profoundly deaf sister's future.

Her sister Laura, 11, was born deaf and can only communicate in sign language.

"It is lovely to see the whole class making the signs and knowing what they mean," said Jade.

The A-level student used her Bernard Matthews Youth Award prize money to pay for the lessons.

It recognised her campaign work and petition, which has about 4,000 signatures.

Image copyright Supplied
Image caption Jade was presented with the youth award by Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington in October

The 13-week British Sign Language (BSL) course at Dereham Neatherd High School started this month after she spoke to head teacher Peter Devonish.

"French, German and Spanish are taught in nearly every school, yet sign language is not, even though it was officially made a language in 2003," said Jade.

"My sister can say some simple sentences but people outside of the family cannot understand her so this is where sign language becomes important.

"She doesn't like to leave the house as she get nervous.

"If sign language was taught in schools the future would not be so daunting, she could communicate more easily and be more confident."

All 20 places on the after-school course have been taken.

The British Deaf Association said there were about 58,000 deaf people in England who use BSL and about 129,000 users in total.

The charity's Sue Barry said it "fully supported" Jade's efforts.

"Over 80% of young deaf children attend mainstream schools," she said.

"A high percentage of deaf children using BSL don't have many friends to play with or talk to and can feel isolated."

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