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April 4, 2003


From: Derby Evening Telegraph, UK - Apr 4, 2003

Derby County players cong-ratulated 250 children who took part in the Sign at School initiative yesterday. Strikers Branko Strupar and Lee Wilson joined mascot Rammie at Pride Park's Toyota Suite to reward children who took part in the Evening Telegraph-backed sign language scheme.

Organised by Derby consultancy firm UK for British Sign Language (UK4BSL), the competition was set up to create a new generation of young people who could communicate with deaf people.

Schoolchildren spent six weeks learning the alphabet and 60 other signs, which were published in the Evening Telegraph.

They were then visited by John McDonald and Diane Holloway, from UK4BSL, to see how they were progressing.

At the end of six weeks, the children were tested.

Mr McDonald (40) said: "Every child here passed the exam, but it was very, very difficult to choose the two winning schools.

"We were actually quite overwhelmed by the number of children who took part. Children of all ages were enjoying it and wanting to learn sign language, which was fantastic."

Woodlands Community School, Blenheim Drive, Allestree, and Sunnyhill Infant School, Blackmore Street, Derby, each won Derwent Crystal trophies.

Mr McDonald, who is deaf, added: "We chose Woodlands School because of the high amount of staff support.

"There is one deaf pupil there, and we were impressed with the integration into a mainstream school."

He said Sunnyhill Infant School had a high level of support from head teacher Helen Latham, and that her commitment to sign language swung it for the judges.

Mr Wilson, who handed out certificates and signed autographs to the youngsters with Mr Strupar, said: "I'm very impressed with all the children here today.

"Some of them are very young and they have obviously worked very hard at this."

Mr McDonald added: "We want the children to be very proud of what they achieved.

"The Sign for School competition was the very first step for UK4BSL to have every young person in the UK signing within 12 months.

"Each child here today has proved sign language has been recognised as something young people feel is important."

The timing of the competition coincided with a decision by the Government to recognise British Sign Language as an official language - something Mr McDonald has been campaigning for for 20 years.

He said: "It was very inspiring for us to see the commitment shared by pupils, teachers, support staff and helpers.

"I think this really does reflect the need to include sign language in the National Curriculum."

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