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British Sign Language

British Sign Language

What is British Sign Language?

What is British Sign Language?British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised by the Government as a language in its own right in March 2003. BSL is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 Deaf people in the UK. BSL is a visual-gestural language, with its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English.


We offer qualifications in British Sign Language from Level 1 to Level 6.

Level 1 Award in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

This qualification is designed to teach learners to communicate using British Sign Language (BSL) on a range of topics that involve simple, everyday language use.


Unit structure

This qualification is divided into three units, each of which can be achieved separately. Learners who are new to BSL should cover 101 first, as units 102 and 103 build on this knowledge. Units 102 and 103 can be taken in any order.

To achieve the full Level 1 Award in British Sign Language, candidates must pass all units.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL101 * Introduction to BSL Practical assessment of skills
BSL102 Conversational BSL Assessed conversation in BSL
BSL103 Communicate in BSL about Everyday Life Assessed conversation in BSL

* There are alternative BSL101 units available. These are a designed for young people, people working in healthcare and frontline staff, and contain language more applicable to these specific learners.

These can be studied on their own. Successful candidates can go on to complete units BSL102 and BSL103 to achieve the full Level 1 Award in British Sign Language.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL101 (Young People) Introduction to BSL Practical assessment of skills
BSL101 (Healthcare) Introduction to BSL Practical assessment of skills
BSL101 (Frontline Staff) Introduction to BSL Practical assessment of skills

Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL101 20 10 30 3
BSL102 22 8 30 3
BSL103 22 8 30 3
Total 64 26 90 9

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

BSL competence standards include requirements for candidates to have sufficient sight, manual dexterity, facial and body movement to produce and receive BSL. It is the responsibility of the centre to explain these requirements before accepting a candidate for this qualification.


Learning resources

BSL Homework

BSL Homework

Our online BSL Homework package is perfect for anyone studying towards a Signature Level 1 Award in British Sign Language or Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language qualification. With over 500 short stories in BSL presented by Deaf people across the UK and questions to test you, it helps you practice what you have been taught in the classroom. You will also find filmed assessment examples and tips, and a BSL dictionary.

Packages start from £14.99 and you can register and practice our BSL101 package for free!

Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

This qualification is designed to enable learners to develop an ability to communicate with Deaf people using BSL in a range of familiar contexts, participating in lengthy and open-ended exchanges. The course will develop functional communication in BSL about a range of real life, routine and daily experiences. The learner will be able to deal with most routine language tasks and have sufficient grasp of grammar to cope with some non-routine tasks. Learners will be taught a number of regional variations in sign language.


Unit structure

The qualification is divided into three units, each of which can be achieved separately. The units can be done in any order at any time but it is recommended that the content of Unit BSL201 is covered before Unit BSL202 or BSL203.

To achieve the full Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve all units.

Unit code Unit title Assessment method
BSL201 BSL Receptive Skills Multiple choice examination
BSL202 BSL Productive Skills Presentation in BSL
BSL203 BSL Conversational Skills Conversation in BSL

Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL201 30 20 50 5
BSL202 35 15 50 5
BSL203 35 15 50 5
Total 100 50 150 15

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

BSL competence standards include requirements for candidates to have sufficient sight, manual dexterity, facial and body movement to produce and receive BSL. It is the responsibility of the centre to explain these requirements before accepting a candidate for this qualification.


Learning resources

BSL Homework

BSL Homework

Our online BSL Homework package is perfect for anyone studying towards a Signature Level 1 Award in British Sign Language or Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language qualification. With over 500 short stories in BSL presented by Deaf people across the UK and questions to test you, it helps you practice what you have been taught in the classroom. You will also find filmed assessment examples and tips, and a BSL dictionary.

Packages start from £14.99 and you can register and practice our BSL101 package for free!

Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language (BSL) caters for the learning needs of those who already have competence in BSL at Level 2. Successful learners must be able to demonstrate competence at Level 3 of the UK Occupational Language Standards (CILT, 2010). This means that the learner will be able to understand and use varied BSL in a range of work and social situations.


Unit structure

The qualification is divided into three units each of which will be assessed separately. Although assessments can be taken straight after each unit has been taught, Signature suggests that all assessments are best taken at the end of the course when all teaching is complete.

Unit code Unit title Assessment method
320 Sign Linguistics Knowledge Paper Assessment
321 Understand varied British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations DVD and paper
322 Use varied British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations Presentation

Suggested Duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Signature unit code Guided learning hours (GLH) Additional study/practice time Total learning time Credits
BSL320 20 20 40 4
BSL321 65 55 120 12
BSL322 65 55 120 12

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

In order to be entered for a course and assessment leading to this qualification, learners must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 2. It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a learner for this qualification. Learners should be assessed at their induction to demonstrate their skills.

This qualification is listed as appropriate for learners pre 16 and older.


Level 3 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed in order to be able to operate independently and at an advanced level in the target language. It is useful for those who work on a regular basis with Deaf people (for example social workers, teachers of the Deaf, communicators, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc)or those who aspire to work in these contexts.


Unit structure

This qualification is divided into two units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 3 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve both units.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL311 Understand varied British Sign Language in a range of work situations Portfolio
BSL312 Use varied British Sign Language in a range of work situations Portfolio

The unit titles refer to 'work situations' but the content and assessment criteria allow for evidence from a wide range of contexts.


Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL311 75 65 140 14
BSL312 75 65 140 14
Total 150 130 280 28

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 2.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed in order to be able to operate at a professionally proficient level in the target language. It is useful for those who work professionally with Deaf people (for example teachers and lecturers in BSL, social workers, teachers of the Deaf, trainee interpreters, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc) or those who aspire to work in these contexts.


Unit structure

This qualification is divided into two units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve both units.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL601 Understand complex British Sign Language in a wide range of work situations Portfolio
BSL312 Use complex British Sign Language in a wide range of work situations Portfolio

The unit titles refer to 'work situations' but the content and assessment criteria allow for evidence from a wide range of contexts.


Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL601 90 90 180 18
BSL602 90 90 180 18
Total 180 180 360 36

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 3.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.



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