Boy demands sign language GCSE at parliament

Ann Jillings, Daniel Jillings, Nick Gibb, and Peter Aldous in Westminster. Picture: James McDermotth

Ann Jillings, Daniel Jillings, Nick Gibb, and Peter Aldous in Westminster. Picture: James McDermotthill - Credit: Archant

A profoundly deaf child took his case for a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE to the heart of British politics.

Daniel Jillings, 12, of Lowestoft and a Bungay High School pupil, visited Westminster on Monday, March 12 to put forward his argument for an exam in his own sign language.

His mother, Ann, who is chair of the Waveney Deaf Children's Society, has been in contact with Waveney MP, Peter Aldous, for many years campaigning about the education provisions for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The invitation to Daniel and Ann was sent by Mr Aldous following the arrangement of a meeting with the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb.

While at the House of Commons, Daniel was provided with a deaf interpreter to allow him to put his case to the minister, and was given a tour of the Palace of Westminster.

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The meeting with Mr Gibb follows years of campaigning from parents of deaf children who say the lack of a BSL exam hurts the prospects of deaf and hard of hearing children.

Mrs Jillings said: 'Peter has been very supportive of the campaign to have a GCSE in British Sign Language because although the language has been recognised for the last 15 years, children still don't have the chance to have a GCSE in their first language.

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'He had arranged with his staff to give us a tour around parliament and the House of Lords. It was great for Daniel as he is very interested in history.'

She added: 'I was very proud of him. For a 12 year old to meet a senior education minister and to share his views. He was very keen to go ahead because sign language is very much part of his deaf identity and culture and he would very much like to achieve a GCSE in his own language.'

'He did mention that he might be the first deaf prime minister, so his ambitions might go higher!'

MP for Waveney Peter Aldous said: 'Ann is a tremendous campaigner for better education provisions for deaf and hard of hearing children in Suffolk.

'Deaf and hard of hearing children are seriously disadvantaged by not having a GCSE in their own language and if there was one it would open up so many options for them in their careers and future aspirations.

He added: 'I would hope there would be a robust exam in place in four years time when Daniel would be taking his GCSEs'

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