British Sign Language

Did you know that Sign Language was banned in the UK?

Did you know all signing schools for the deaf were closed down? 

Did you know children where punished for signing and were forced to lip read and speak? 

This continued to be the case until the 1970s. 


It was not until 2003 when BSL was finally recognised as an official minority language in the United Kingdom and in 2022, the British Sign Language Act was passed, finally recognising BSL as an official language in the UK with similar status to Welsh and Gaelic. In addition, in 2025, there will be a BSL GCSE!


At St James, we have been teaching BSL to all our children, from Nursery to Year 6 since 2022. They learn how to communicate in sign language using finger spelling and words. They sing and sign each week and learn about the deaf community. We hope that we will have some children who will pass their BSL Level 1 examination in the not too distant future!


In school we have found it has help our children to access the curriculum, make new friends, build confidence, become aware of others around them, debate about how disabilities do not stop us from doing things and be accepting of others. Some children, outside school, have signed with Deaf people they have met at events, sharing the smiles on the faces of Deaf person. This joy then comes back into school and can be seen in the enjoyment of all of the children in the BSL sessions and gatherings. 

BSL Club

BSL club are a group of children who meet each week with Miss Felton to develop BSL through the school.


They have developed signs for our school prayer, recorded a signed song for use by all schools across the Trust in our 'Big Sing' and have organised a BSL Day in school.

Our School Prayer

Still image for this video


During Deaf Awareness Week, the BSL Club ran a special day across the school. They selected a story book, learnt the story and signs and then visited Nursery, Foundation Stage, The Ark and Key Stage 1 to share the book with the children. All classes took part in a finger spellathon, science lessons about how you hear, wore earplugs and listened to the news only using subtitles. Children and staff from Vernon Terrace Deaf Unit came to St James for the day, joining in with activities, playtime and sharing their stories during Gathering. 


As well as activities and fundraising during the day, the BSL Club held a cake sale after school to raise money for National Deaf Children's Society. We raised nearly £1000!

Tamsin, from NDCS said, "Thank you SO much for your email to tell us about the fantastic amount of money you have raised for us. I am quite blown away by it! Such a huge amount, especially for a primary school! I hope that everyone enjoyed the BSL day, I’m sure they did. I absolutely love that you teach your children BSL throughout their time at school, I think this is brilliant. Not only have you raised vital funds, but you are also raising vital awareness and teaching your children skills which they will be able to take forward with them."

Visitors to School

We have been lucky enough to have two special Gatherings hosted by visitors who are deaf. Tanya, who was deaf from birth, works at Deaf Connect and at Northampton General Hospital as an interpreter for the deaf. Mr Hussain, who was also deaf from birth, works at Vernon Terrace Primary School as a teacher and is a deaf driving instructor.


They both shared their experiences of education, where they were not allowed to sign as children but forced to speak and lip read. They were amazed at the signing that was happening at St James and loved our singing/signing and our school prayer. They have both promised to come back soon!

Things to do at home

The children love the signed songs in these videos. Why not explore the website at home too?

Did you know that when you are using BSL in the order we speak English, it is called Sign Supported English rather than British Sign Language?

Some of our favourites!