CHILDREN in Middlewich have become the first in Cheshire to achieve a national qualification in sign language.

Nine youngsters from Middlewich Primary School and one girl from St Mary's School have passed the same assessment that is given to adults.

The course was arranged as part of Middlewich Primary School’s provision for children with hearing impairment.

Nine pupils at the school are deaf and sign language has become a common part of the learning environment.

Paula Harding, who teaches deaf students, said: “Signing is something they see everyone in the school doing.

“When they’re mixing with other children in the yard they can chat in depth and know people will understand them so that’s really nice.

“They know its normal in the school that people are signing so it builds their confidence.”

Ten students and 10 adults, including two staff members from Middlerwich High School, passed level one of the British Sign Language (BSL) course at Middlewich Primary School with the help of tutors from West Cheshire College.

Paula, who has been at the school since Easter 2008, added: “They’ve never done the course with children before and they were absolutely amazed at the standard of signing we already had.

“Some qualified 40-year-old members of staff struggled while the children found it quite easy.

“Children are fearless and don’t worry about getting it wrong. They’re not embarassed and just go for it.”

Signing has successfully become an everyday part of life at Middlewich Primary because of the school’s ‘signing choir’.

Every Friday lunchtime around 30 youngsters are taught how to perform a sign language version of a pop song.

The choir has now become well known in the town, recently performing at the Folk and Boat Festival.

Paula said: “It’s a way of engaging them with something they really like. It helps them understand how it works as a language.

“We’re really proud of the qualification because it means more children are coming through our doors using sign language.

“It’s important as a school to promote that in the community.”

The children who gained the BSL level one qualification were Leah Toft, Natalie lamb, Ayesha Reeves, Lucy Ford, Megan Carlin, Kia Bailey, Amy Grierson, Alex Jackson and Hannah McCafferty as well as Georgia Harding from St Mary's School.