STUDENTS and teachers at Bishopstown Community School recently appealed for primary schools all over Ireland to get involved in a special Irish Sign Language (ISL) signing of our National Anthem to celebrate St Patrick's Day.
Such has been the response they have extended the date for schools to enter, from today, March 10, to Friday next, March 12.
It wasn't until 2018 that the ISL Anthem was officially launched in the Oireachtas and the first public performance was at the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park that year Bishopstown, who have a Deaf Facility in their school, were at the forefront of pushing for this inclusive version of our national anthem and they have given students a guide on how to learn the song in ISL.
Irish Sign Language is Ireland's third official language after English and Irish. It is used by the 50,000 members of the Deaf Community of Ireland.
Senator Mark Daly was a key advocate of the ISL National Anthem and, thanks to him, the winning submission will get a VIP tour of Leinster House for their class. Every child who partakes in the challenge will be awarded with an Oireachtas certificate.
Denise Dowling, a teacher at Bishopstown Community School is one of the people involved with the facilitation of creating the ISL National Anthem and is also one of those behind this project.
“This translation is an important part of the jigsaw of inclusion, equality, and access. We are now sharing and celebrating our ISL version of the National Anthem by teaching it to primary pupils across Ireland,” said Ms Dowling.
“We aspire that more people should have the opportunity to learn the ISL version and strengthen our culture and understanding of the deaf community.
“We would love for everyone to join us in celebrating the new skills and embracing our national song.
“Edwina Gottstein (school principal) and I were involved with the National Anthem journey back in 2018 so when we were discussing ways of raising awareness around it, we came up with the idea of linking with primary schools and put it in as an action in our DEIS plan.
“With lockdown and students learning at home, we planned for a virtual learning experience whereby students would follow tutorials videos and teach themselves. We planned a St. Patrick's Day challenge so as to entice more schools and students to get involved.
“However, this is not just a once-off event. We hope that teachers will take on this project as students fully return to schools and all going well that we'll have another event in the summer that will also include secondary schools.
“We would love to see ISL on the primary school curriculum even if it were just the basic alphabet hand shapes. The alphabet alone could facilitate a conversation with a deaf person.
“We would love people to learn some skills through learning the anthem. It would bring on awareness of the language itself and the fact that there is a deaf community out there who could benefit from everybody's effort,” concluded Ms Dowling.
To help schools they have a number of video tutorials and they can be seen at: www.bishopstown-cs.ie/isl-national-anthem