This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Attain (attainmagazine.uk)
One language is often overlooked but should be universally taught, argues Matt Robinson, Junior School Head of the City of London Freemen’s School. This language is different - it's entirely silent.
As a parent, you may have questioned the number of languages, both ancient and modern, that your child is taught. The solution is to add another - one more language which I feel passionately should be introduced across IAPS prep schools and which would bring huge advantages to pupils. It is one that is separate and distinct; one that has its own structure, vocabulary and dialects. It is a language that guarantees smiles and frowns, obvious frustrations and the stamping of feet. Indeed this language demands all those things.
As the little brother of a profoundly deaf sister, I have been a staunch advocate of exposing pupils to sign language (and in particular British Sign Language) for the whole of my teaching career. And it is for reasons other than just increasing a pupil's chances of communicating with deaf people, though that should be reason enough. My hearing sister contracted meningitis at eight months and when my parents brought her home she was brain damaged: physically disabled and deaf. I arrived 16 months later so have always known the deaf world. Through the 70s and 80s we communicated in our own family way, my parents having been advised to educate her via the Oral communication method.