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Local MPs Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) & Fleur Anderson (Putney, Roehampton & Southfields) visited Falcons School for Girls

The visit was to observe British Sign Language lessons in action, in support of the current parliamentary campaign to recognise British Sign Language as an official language of England, Wales and Scotland. Pupils at Falcons School for Girls, Putney, have been embracing lessons in British Sign Language as part of their engaging Life Skills Curriculum.

As a school who prides itself in educating girls about their roles as citizens, and after recognising the need to help close the communications gap for the hard-of-hearing community, Headmistress, Mrs Sara Williams-Ryan, connected with AMB Deaf Accessibility to invite owner, Feras Al Moubayed, to host British Sign Language lessons for all year groups at the Putney girls’ school.

Williams-Ryan commented “Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of our school community here at Falcons School For Girls. We want our pupils to grow up fostering an environment that is inclusive and one which celebrates differences. We are delighted to be a pioneering school to host British Sign Language lessons. Feras’s classes have been incredibly popular across all year groups, with the girls learning a breadth of language skills, from colours/ animals, numbers, greeting, everyday conversation, family, days of the week, in Reception, through to the alphabet, conversational skills and communication in BSL about everyday life in our older year group lessons. We believe this foundation in British Sign Language will give our pupils lifelong communication tools.”

Feras and his brother, Wael, who are co-owners of their company AMB Deaf Accessibility are passionate about bringing British Sign Language (BSL) into schools. Having experienced many challenges in life first-hand growing up. Feras relates that: "I was born in Kuwait as a hearing child and became deaf at the age of two. When I was 9 years old, I came to the UK from Syria. In both these countries, the education system was poor and there was no sign language in school for me to access learning, so I understood very little of what was happening around me and how to communicate.

Arriving in the UK was life changing as I was taught BSL and although this was difficult at first as it was a new language, it was one I was able to fully access, and this enabled me to thrive for the first time in my life. I could express myself, learn new things, make new friends and life became amazing! As an adult I went on to get a degree in Fashion Design and had the privilege of working for many well-known fashion brand labels. Due to the immense positive impact that BSL had on my life chances, I want to pass on this rich visual, gestural, and spatial language that has its own unique grammar and syntax to the next generation of both hearing and deaf children in schools, in the hope that it will enrich their prospects in life as it has mine.

I would like to say a big thank you to the Headmistress of Falcons School for Girls for initiating this project in the school. The project is especially timely due to the current passage through parliament of a Bill for BSL to become an official language. The young people in the school have been truly inspirational to teach. They have been quick to learn an extensive range of vocabulary on a range of everyday topics as well as practical communication skills in BSL.

I am hoping that when you visit on Thursday you will witness what a profound impact the training has had on the students. I hope it will be hugely beneficial in giving them confidence to overcome the initial embarrassment that comes with meeting users of a language other than their own. Their enthusiasm for learning has spilled over into the school playground where BSL practice is now in full swing. It has also had an impact on the wider community as the pupils have been passing on their new learning to family and friends and I hope this will snowball further and help to engender greater co-operation and understanding between users of English and users of BSL.

The girls have made an excellent start on the road to becoming proficient users of BSL, which will look good on their educational attainment results, particularly if BSL becomes a GCSE subject soon, as hoped.

To further enhance the pupils learning I am pleased to announce that a new inter-school partnership has recently been agreed between The Falcons School for Girls and The Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children here in London. The hope is that through the children meeting each other on a regular basis there can be an interchange of valuable learning for the pupils of both schools, and I am sure the respective heads of school will be happy to provide an update, at a future date, on the progress being made.”

As the Bill to recognise British Sign Language as an official language of England, Wales and Scotland currently passes in Government, local supporting MPs, Sara Olney (Richmond Park)and Fleur Anderson (Putney, Roehampton & Southfields) paid a visit to Falcons School for Girls in Putney on Thursday 10th March to observe a British Sign Language lesson in action with Feras, AMB Deaf Accessibility.

Sarah Olney MP commented...
“Last Thursday I had the pleasure of joining a British Sign Language lesson at Falcons School for Girls, with fellow MP Fleur Anderson. I was incredibly impressed by the students and the excellent Feras, who led the session.

In honour of Sign Language Week 2022, I will be proudly voting in favour of the BSL Bill as it returns to the Commons on Friday!’

Fleur Anderson MP commented...
“It was great to be invited to Falcons School for Girls last week with MP Sarah Olney to observe their fantastic BSL lessons. I support Rosie Cooper MP’s Bill to provide legal recognition for British Sign Language and it is brilliant to see children with such a passion for learning BSL.”