Mustard video & Photo gallery: Meet the North Walsham school choir that the deaf can hear too

North Walsham High School signing choir.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY North Walsham High School signing choir. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Friday, December 20, 2013
8:13 AM

Silent Night was the fitting choice for North Walsham High School’s new “signing” choir to perform at the school’s carol concert last night.

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North Walsham High School signing choir. Choir leader and teacher Jessica Presland with her 'deaf dog' Zena with choir member Flo Maynard, 12.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYNorth Walsham High School signing choir. Choir leader and teacher Jessica Presland with her 'deaf dog' Zena with choir member Flo Maynard, 12. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The 50-strong choir used British Sign Language (BSL) to “sing” the festive favourite at the event, held in St Nicholas’ Parish Church.

The pupils, aged 11-13, have been learning BSL with Jessica Presland, who joined the school as head of modern foreign languages in September.

Mrs Presland, 52, has been deaf since contracting Ménière’s Disease about 16 years ago and uses hearing aids, BSL and lip reading to communicate. She also has a Hearing Dog, Zena, who alerts her to alarms, doorbells and helps strangers realise that she is deaf.

She is hoping to open up the choir to children from the age of seven in the new year.

“It raises awareness of BSL and if I teach the children the signs for the words as they’re learning a foreign language, it helps embed it because they really concentrate,” she said.

Ellie Napier, 13, said she enjoyed learning sign language which might be useful in the future if she had to communicate with deaf people.

“It’s something I’ll remember for my whole life,” she added.

Head teacher Caroline Brooker said the choir provided the children with a “brilliant opportunity” to learn about social inclusion and diversity.

She added: “It’s also improved and enlivened their learning. When they learn the French for ‘rabbit’ they do the BSL ears sign too - they’ve really taken it to their hearts.”

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