Great Singing, Great Signing: A case study

Barry is 13, has taken part in our Great Singing, Great Signing project for a year, and is still attending project sessions. Great Singing, Great Signing’s aim was to start and run two new singing and signing ensembles in areas of the region where there is currently no singing and signing activity; one in Halifax and one with the Doncaster Deaf Trust. Doncaster Deaf School (run by the Trust) is an educational organisation specifically for Deaf, hearing impaired and learning disabled young people, like Barry.

The project involves weekly singing and signing sessions, with children at each school led by Paul Whitaker OBE (our lead facilitator), with Paul’s interpreter and one or two trainee practitioners. There are two sets of sessions in Doncaster; one for the younger, primary aged children and one for the older children. Improvements in the children have been noted and remarked upon by staff at the school and our own facilitators. Natalie Davies, one of our trainees in Doncaster, says:

It’s gone from a point of none of them really singing at all, or vocalising very much, to a point where, at the end of last term, we got a few of them actually to match the pitch that we were singing to them, which I thought would take a lot longer...”

Since the start of the Great Singing, Great Signing project, Barry has been particularly enthusiastic to take part and Barry’s teachers have seen an improvement in both his BSL skill level and his confidence. Barry has enjoyed the sessions a huge amount, because he himself feels that his knowledge of BSL has improved and because he has had the opportunity to interact with other children, some hearing impaired and some not. Jane Goodman, the Head at Doncaster School for the Deaf, said:

Barry has definitely responded to it. He has been enthusiastic from day one.

Sessions for the older children are held at a nearby local authority school which also has specialist support for children who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment; children from both schools sing and sign together, and the group includes hearing, as well as Deaf, children. Doncaster School for the Deaf is keen to integrate their students into the wider community, and equally keen to introduce the hearing community to Deaf culture. With sessions taking place in the new school, Barry and the others taking part in the project are able to integrate with hearing children, where they are learning the same singing and signing skills together as a group. I asked Barry if he felt like he was part of a team during the sessions. He said:

Yes! Because when I was part of the group… people helped me by correcting [my BSL]. And we all help each other.

The Great Singing, Great Signing project is clearly designed to reflect the values within Doncaster School for the Deaf itself, where integration into society and inclusion for all work alongside a level of quality and respect for both BSL and the Deaf community, and this is reflected clearly in Barry’s participation and continuing progress. Part of the success of this ongoing project is also due to Yorkshire Youth and Music’s director, Gail Dudson, who not only designed the project with both quality and inclusion in mind, but is also now completing an MA, with singing and signing as her primary research focus.

Because of his involvement in the project, Barry has expressed an interest in being involved in more musical activity, and as well as continuing to be part of the project, would also like to learn how to play the trumpet. We are taking steps to make this possible for him, potentially linking in with one of our other projects to support DHI young people: our Deaf and Instrumental Learning project.

You can read the full case study here or please visit our project page on the Yorkshire Youth and Music website for more information.

Photography by Clare Daněk

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