They say preparation is everything — and that was true of Education Minister John O’Dowd who was sent to the top of the class for his efforts.
The Sinn Fein man recently paid a visit to the Jordanstown School for deaf and visually impaired children and was praised for having learned sign language before going to see them.
The minister was said to have been impressed by the pupils when he first met them at a conference on special schools.
Following the encounter, he used a book to teach himself the alphabet in sign language.
The school's development officer, Brian Symington, said: “It was very well appreciated by the kids and the staff.
“He must be the first minister I've met to have taken the time to learn sign language.”
But the pupils had also done their research, and found out that the politician was once a chef. He was brought to a home economics class to be tested on his skills, and the pupils also taught him the sign for ‘chef', to add to his repertoire.
“During my visit, I was impressed by the vibrant social activities on offer — including a music recording studio, art and technology rooms, a climbing wall and a running track,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“These activities — combined with the school's caring ethos and excellent pastoral care — all help enrich and enhance the lives of the pupils there.”