A sign of the times: supporting New Zealand’s Deaf youth

Issue: Volume 94, Number 7

Posted: 4 May 2015
Reference #: 1H9cr1

Learners with special education needs, including those who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment, are one of the Government’s priority learner groups, and a focus for the Ministry of Education.

Secretary for Education Peter Hughes says that “no two students are the same, or learn in the same way, and the stories and examples from our schools and early childhood centres show we are helping to create positive learning experiences for them and others. It is inspiring to see New Zealand Deaf children and youth confidently say ‘I am Deaf and I am proud’.

“The Ministry recognises we can’t do our job alone and we are privileged to work closely with the Deaf community, schools and early childhood services, parents and whānau to develop and implement the NZSL Programme and we are pleased to honour New Zealand Sign Language Week 2015” he said.

The Ministry is strengthening the services and supports provided to Deaf children and we are pushing for consistent, high-quality services and for equitable access, when and where it is most needed.

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is one of New Zealand’s official languages and is the natural language of the New Zealand Deaf community.

New Zealand sign language at school

If your school has Deaf students who use NZSL as their primary language you need to know about the NZSL@School initiative and how it can help you support their education.

The NZSL@School initiative was established in 2014, and is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Education and the Combined Board of Kelston and van Asch Deaf Education Centres.

For your school, this could mean extra support and services for Deaf students who use NZSL. NZSL@School is designed to enable Deaf students to have daily access to fluent NZSL in the classroom and for school activities, using teacher’s aides and/or interpreters. There will also be the opportunity for NZSL tuition for Deaf students, their parents and family/whānau, school staff and hearing classmates.

There are initially 60 Deaf students in mainstream schools across New Zealand during 2015 who will receive these additional services. The two Deaf Education Centres are working with each of the schools where the students are enrolled to set up NZSL services and resources for 2015.

The Ministry of Education is also looking at what schools are already doing to support Deaf students and their parents/whānau, and what supports schools are currently receiving and ways to continue to build their capability through resources, training, technology and sharing practices among schools. This will involve a small project team of NZSL@School staff working with the schools, parents, whānau and students involved. If your school is involved, the project team will be in touch during term two.

The overall aims of the NZSL@School initiative are to:

  • build more responsive and effective education for Deaf students whose primary language is NZSL and who attend their local school
  • increase the direct NZSL support and services to these Deaf students, their family/whānau and the schools they attend.

The ultimate aim is to ensure every Deaf student at a mainstream school receives the best possible education within a responsive and supportive environment.

Student insights: what I love about being deaf

“I like communicating with other Deaf people, it’s quite easy to interact using sign language” – Drew
“I love being different from other people” – Cha’nel
“Well it’s part of my culture right” – Kahurangi
“It makes me who I am and helps me to feel closer to other Deaf people as we have the same experiences and stories” – Henry

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:13 PM, 4 May 2015

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