Strictly Come Dancing couple inspire St Albans deaf pupils

Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice met with Heathlands School pupils.

Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice made a surprise visit to a Deafinitely Theatre workshop and met with Heathlands School pupils. - Credit: Heathlands School

Stars of BBC flagship entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing proved an inspiration for pupils from St Albans-based Heathlands School for the Deaf.

Deaf EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice made a surprise visit to a Deafinitely Theatre workshop the students were attending in London.

Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis wearing Heathlands School fleeces.

Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis wearing Heathlands School fleeces. - Credit: Heathlands School

Rose and Gio have been wowing Strictly viewers with stunning performances and the breaking down of barriers surrounding deafness.

Their partnership has been wowing fans both deaf and hearing alike with Giovanni explaining how Rose learns routines: "So it's all about muscle memory, so in her brain she's still counting and still remember what she has to do, the technique, so it's quite more difficult." 

Last week the pair had a silent moment in their dance which Rose dedicated to the deaf community saying to Gio: "I feel very thankful for your determination to make this dance the most positive, happy dance, it can be, because you know that being deaf, there's nothing wrong, it's such a joy to be deaf, and I think that says a lot about you as a person."

Students at Heathlands School are thrilled at the positive role model that Rose has portrayed. They too learn to be proud of their deaf identity having lessons in deaf studies as part of their curriculum to understand their heritage whilst supporting them to be confident in themselves.

Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis.

Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis. - Credit: Heathlands School

Co-headteacher Sarah Shields said: "Mental health is so important and high on the agenda following the pandemic, at Heathlands mental health has always been a priority in order to support the whole child, their wellbeing and development’. 

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But Heathlands have another reason to be proud of the impact Rose is making as online searches to learn British Sign Language jumped by 500 per cent when the couple incorporated it into their Viennese waltz, inspiring many to learn the language.

BSL is a fundamental part of the Heathlands community and the school has an award-winning education centre where members of the community can attend to learn sign language in a variety of courses. Fast track level one courses are running in January.

Co-headteacher Lesley Reeves Costi added: "In today’s current climate, baby signing with hearing babies is encouraged yet many medical professionals will advise parents of deaf babies not to use sign language as it could delay their speech. Yet all evidence points to sign language strengthening language development in both deaf and hearing babies. It is something to embrace and not shy away from."

For more information on learning BSL see www.heathlands.herts.sch.uk 

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