Deaf teen in line for top signing award

James Galt.
James Galt.

A teenager has been shortlisted for a high profile national award by UK charity and leading awarding body in deaf communications, Signature.

James Galt, 13, from Lancaster, has been named as one of four contenders in the Young Learner of the Year category at the 2014 Signature Annual Awards.

The awards honour individuals, organisations and community groups that are striving to break down the barriers of communication between deaf and hearing people.

James, who was born deaf and wore two hearing aids until he received a cochlear implant in 2008, has recently achieved both the Signature Level 1 and Level 2 Awards in British Sign Language (BSL) at his mainstream secondary school.

James’s form tutor at St Aidan’s CE Technology College, Preesall, said that James has grown in confidence over the last few years, now regularly contributing to form activities, and hopes that he will begin to teach basic signing to the rest of the class as it is such an important skill for them to have.

He also received the Headteacher’s Commendation Award in recognition of the Level 2 qualification being equivalent to a GCSE.

James, who is a keen sportsman, currently plays for the newly formed Lancashire deaf cricket squad as well as the North West Deaf U16 futsal squad.

He has formed a strong friendship with the team’s goalkeeper – also a BSL user – and often interprets for him at training.

He even attended training sessions during a six-week period when he was injured and unable to play, so that he could continue to interpret for his friend.

James said: “It’s fantastic to be in the running for this award. I enjoy my BSL studies and have been inspired to develop my skills further through playing deaf sport.

“I would love to become a professional footballer in the future, or even an England cricketer.”

Jim Edwards, Signature chief executive, said: “It’s always great to see young people taking up BSL – James’s BSL teacher has identified him as having a natural signing ability, and his passion for the language is evident.

“It’s also good to hear that his school is keen to introduce BSL to students.

“With 85 per cent of deaf children now attending mainstream schools, it’s more important than ever that all children can communicate with each other.

“James has worked incredibly hard, putting in many hours on top of his regular schoolwork to learn BSL, and we wish him all the best with his future studies.”

James will join shortlisted entrants in categories such as Organisational Achievement, Teacher of the Year, Learner of the Year, Young Learner of the Year, Centre of the Year and Communication Professional of the Year.

The winner will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at Durham Cathedral this October.