June 2, 2004 14:48
YOUNGSTERS were taught the art of sign language when a deaf council worker dropped in on class.
Norfolk County Council social worker Matthew Talbot visited children at Catton Grove Middle School, where he taught a Year 5 class some of the basic signs.
Pupils were all fingers and thumbs as they tried to copy Matthew, but at the end of the day most had managed to master the alphabet.
According to head teacher Tim Lawes, the students were most impressed by how trendy Matthew dressed and acted.
The lesson followed on from Deaf Awareness Week, in early May, and the pupils had been working on improving their memories.
Mr Lawes said: "We came up with signs and symbols to remember things and talked about how important signs were for deaf people and those who are hard of hearing.
"One of the cleaners Christine Talbot has a profoundly deaf son and she picked up on this. She asked Matthew to come in.
"The children were really interested and enthusiastic and Matthew said they were very good."
There is just one boy at the Weston Road school who wears hearing aids, and Mr Lawes said Matthew's visit managed to quash some of the pupils' preconceptions.
"What was really good is that he is very trendy and the kids had preconceptions of what a deaf person might be like and he was able to blow apart that stereotype," said Mr Lawes.
Matthew said: "We want to promote deaf awareness to children in Norfolk.
"It is very important for children and adults to be more deaf aware.
"We also want to give deaf people more access to services in education and in the community."
He teaches British Sign Language at City College Norwich and for Adult Education. The course has been increasingly popular.
John Birchall, spokesman for the county council, said: "We hope other schools will see this is an opportunity to find out more about people who have hearing difficulties.
"The more people who learn British Sign Language, the more opportunities open up to a section of the community which can be quite isolated."
Mr Lawes said: "We would love to have Matthew back, he was great with the children."