Elmfield School

Language & Communication 

At Elmfield School children and young people are immersed in a rich language community to thrive socially and in their learning. They have opportunities to mix with hearing, hearing impaired and deaf students and  to work closely with Teachers of the Deaf, a specialist Speech and Language Therapist, an Educational Audiologist, a Deaf Teacher, specialist Teaching Assistants and Communication Support Workers.

Bilingualism is an approach to teaching Deaf children that uses both British Sign Language (BSL), the language of the Deaf community, and English, the language of the hearing community. We value these languages equally and want our children to be competent in both.

British Sign Language(BSL)

Every child at Elmfield School has the opportunity to study and use BSL. As well as supporting their language acquisition, BSL allows all deaf children and adults to communicate easily with each other and forms part of their Deaf identity.

We provide a language rich environment, which means our children can become equally fluent in both BSL and English. We want our children to be bilingual so that they are comfortable in both deaf and hearing communities.

Our BSL curriculum ensures the child develops both receptive and expressive skills at age appropriate levels and develops an understanding of how the language works.  This enables each child to develop language for socialising and learning.

Our staff team consists of both deaf adults as native users and hearing staff with high standards of BSL.  Through exposure to deaf role models and proficient users of the language, the children are enabled to acquire good skills in BSL.  Our Deaf Teachers oversee the development of the BSL curriculum.  This includes assessing each child's development in BSL and setting future targets.

All our pupils have the opportunity to study and use BSL.  Pupils in the Secondary department further develop their BSL skills as part of the Deaf Studies curriculum and are able to take formal exams in BSL, gaining GCSE equivalent qualifications.


Great emphasis is placed on children achieving high standards in English.  We actively promote the development of literacy skills in order for children to learn across the curriculum.  We recognise the value of Information Communication Technology in supporting these skills and are therefore well resourced in this area.

We use spoken English, Sign Supported Speech and British Sign Language as appropriate for each individual child during English lessons to ensure good development of literacy and communication skills.

Our English curriculum is designed to meet statutory requirements – and the particular needs of our children. It is taught as a second language using a structured approach across the school. We know how important it is for children to be able to switch between BSL and English and match their use of language to suit different audiences and situations.

In the Primary School, speaking and listening skills are developed through a multi disciplinary approach which includes the use of Visual Phonics sessions.  These are carefully designed in order to maximise each child's potential to develop these skills and to enable them to communicate with hearing people to the best of their ability.  Staff work closely with Speech and Language Therapists in order to support the development of these skills. 

In the Secondary School, students can study English with either Elmfield Teachers of the Deaf, or within Fairfield lessons, our co-located mainstream school, depending on the individual needs of each student.  Support is provided by Deaf Teaching Assistants and Communication Support Workers.  We place great emphasis on understanding meaning in English and the teaching of English grammar, to ensure students leave our school with the competency in English required for future employment.

The school follows a sign bilingual and bicultural approach to the education of its pupils.  This is an approach to teaching and learning which uses British Sign Language (BSL) and English.  Both languages and cultures are valued equally.  Each child is treated as an individual and we are committed to meeting their individual language needs. This enables each child to develop a positive self image and confidence in order to become independent and successful learners and competent communicators in English and BSL. 

Speech and Language Support

We provide regular opportunities for children to develop their English skills through language programmes delivered by Teachers of the Deaf and Speech and Language Therapists.

The range of therapy offered includes:

  • Developing communication and language through play
  • Focusing on specific aspects of communication in small group, paired or individual sessions
  • ‘Live English’ where deaf children learn skills and strategies to communicate successfully with hearing people (using English, Sign Supported Speech, or BSL, depending on the child’s needs).


Our children are actively encouraged to wear, use and maintain their hearing aids and cochlear implants daily. The school also maintains strong links with audiology clinics and is supported by an Educational Audiologist. Most of our children have some residual hearing and use different types of hearing aids and cochlear implants. We ensure that the children have the opportunity to develop the best use of their hearing in order to communicate and to support their learning and development.

We work with audiological centres and companies to get the right amplification for the children. Our educational audiologist manages the children’s hearing aids and auditory programmes. Children at Elmfield School have daily checks undertaken by the class teacher or designated teaching assistant. The daily checks ensure that problems are identified quickly and acted upon with minimal delay.

All students are supported in making the best use of their residual hearing through targeted speaking and listening opportunities.  An emphasis on developing 'talk' across the curriculum enables pupils to develop skills in clarifying and presenting ideas as well as actively engaging with others.