Sent to Secretary of State for Education
At the moment there is no teaching of British Sign Language on the National Curriculum.
The majority of people surveyed by The National Deaf Children’s Society in May 2017 have said that sign language should be taught in schools. The survey revealed that 92 % said that British Sign Language (BSL) should be offered as a GCSE.
British Sign Language (BSL) is a recognised language within the UK and is used by thousands of people; however it is not yet available as a GCSE subject that can be taught in schools. After a campaign led by deaf young people, we understand that the Department for Education agreed in principle that a new GCSE can be introduced. However progress in developing this appears slow.
We are now calling on the Dept. of Education to ensure this does happen, as quickly as possible, so that no deaf young person is left unable to gain a GCSE qualification in their own language. It is estimated that 10% of deaf children use sign language in their education, it is a language used across the country by thousands of people, the longer it goes on that it is not taught alongside other languages in schools such as Welsh or French etc, it implies it has a lower status and importance. This is not fair or just, equality is an issue here, it could even be seen as discriminatory to deaf people, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their hearing peers.
Furthermore, by allowing BSL to be taught as a GCSE, it would help wider Government initiatives, in that our research has shown that there is a shortage in sign language interpreters, resulting in higher costs for Government programmes, such as (Access to work) making it harder for deaf people to enter the workforce. A BSL GCSE could lead to more people considering interpreting for deaf people as a career, and so help address these issues.
The National Deaf Children’s Society issued a briefing in September 2019, reporting that they understood it may take two years at least for the Government to be able to introduce BSL as a new GCSE, and that relevant criteria must be met in order for this to happen. Like them we as an Association are keen to see much quicker progress on this, and would like some reassurance that it will happen.