University of Edinburgh

Bilingual Glossaries

Wednesday 23 June 2006

Success through sign bilingualism

Karen Simpson, Headteacher, Frank Barnes School, London

"Frank Barnes is a good school. Pupils achieve wll and learn to communicate very effectively through BSL. The car, guidance and support offered to pupils are good and some aspects are excellent. The school focuses successfully on providing pupils with the skills they need for academic and personal development, and for taking their place with pride in both deaf and hearing communities. The majority of children are born to hearing parents and the school does all it can to support them in learning how to communicate with their children. Parents are overwhelmingly supportive of the school. Frank Barnes is successful in its aims . . . "

Ofsted 2006


  • Sign bilingual philosophy
  • Sign bilingual practice
  • Aspiring to excellence
  • Challenges for the future
  • The way forward

Sign bilingual philosophy

"The outcome of a sign bilingual education should be that each child attains levels of competence and proficiency in BSL sufficient for their needs as a child and an adult. The process through which this is achieved should be the planned use of BSL and English before and throughout schooling."

Pickersgill M and Gregory S 1998

"The underlying principles associated with sign bilingualism are based on a linguistic and cultural minority view of deafness:

  • Recognition of the language and culture of Deaf people;
  • recognition of the value of linguistic and cultural diversity in society;
  • empowerment of deaf people
  • equality of opportunity
  • the use of terms to describe deaf children which reflect linguistic and cultural preferences."

Sign bilingual practice

  • Role of BSL
  • Role of deaf adults
  • Deaf Studies curriculum
  • BSL linguistics
  • Teaching of English as a second language
  • Live English

Aspiring to excellence

  • Commitment to sign bilingualism;
  • high expectations for the achievements of deaf children;
  • positive ethos and school climate;
  • effective teaching and learning;
  • national and international links with Deaf organisations;
  • encouraging creativity - thinking out of the box.

Challenges for the future

1. Meeting the needs of deaf children with cochlear impants.

2. Meeting the needs of deaf children who have additional SEN.

3. Inclusion issues.

4. Adapting sign bilingual practice to meet the changing needs of our chidren.

The way forward

  • Special schools have to become centres of excellence and offer outreach support.
  • Learning from the good practice of others.
  • Flexible approaches to problem solving.
  • Working in partnership with others to promote sign bilingualism.
  • Developing / sharing resources and ideas to support each other in our work.


1. What are the challenges / issues you face in your sign bilingual schools / services?

2. How would you like to implement sign bilingual practice?

3. What solutions are needed?