A staff governor at a school in Brighton that caters for deaf children said that Rose Ayling-Ellis’s success on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing has helped fuel interest in sign language.
Ayling-Ellis, 27, who plays Frankie Lewis in the BBC soap EastEnders, won the Strictly final this evening (Saturday 18 December) with her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice.
Sam Caiels, deaf studies co-ordinator at Hamilton Lodge, a school for deaf children in Brighton, said: “The deaf community has always valued BSL (British sign language) but now more and more people are realising this too.
“Hopefully the new interest in learning BSL will grow and grow.”
Before the final, she said that Ayling-Ellis had given deaf people “the confidence to believe in ourselves”.
And she added that it was “such a proud moment” to see a video message from pupils and staff at Hamilton Lodge broadcast on Strictly.
After her victory in the final tonight, Ayling-Ellis told Pernice: “I just want to say you’re so amazing. You pushed me to believe in myself more than I believed in myself.
“You’re an incredible teacher and a wonderful friend and we have gone through a lot – and I just want you to know you’ve always got a piece of my heart.”
She was the first deaf contestant on the TV dance show – and Pernice told her: “Incredible. I have to say thank you to this beautiful young lady who made all my dreams come true.
“It took me seven years to get that thing and you became the best dancer, the best teammate I could have asked for. You are a dream so thank you for everything.”
To learn BSL, try one of the courses offered at Hamilton Lodge for adults. To find out more, click here.
And the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (GB Met) offers part-time evening classes in BSL, with a new course starting next month. To find out more, click here.
Students at Sussex University and Brighton University also have opportunities locally to learn BSL.