British Sign Language Should Qualify as a GCSE Foreign Language Option


National Charity Urges Educational Reform as Part of Government Consultation.

British Sign Language (BSL) should qualify as a GCSE foreign language option under the new national curriculum, urges leading deaf charity Signature.

The proposal is in response to the government’s consultation on the changes to the GCSE curriculum in England, which is due to be published at the end of this month.

Currently, a foreign language is defined as one that is ‘written and spoken’ but Signature wants the Department for Education to extend the definition to include ‘signed’ languages so that BSL can be introduced as a GCSE.

Signature argues that BSL deserves the same GCSE status as other minority languages like Gaelic and Welsh. It says that making it mainstream would be a step in the right direction towards a level playing field, providing deaf children with more equal access to education and employment opportunities.

Paul Parsons, Director of Communications at Signature, said: “This educational reform will open up a wealth of career opportunities for young deaf people by enhancing their employability and allowing them to consider career opportunities they may have previously not considered. If we believe that one of the reasons for teaching a modern foreign language is because it can bring long term economic value, then there’s no reason why BSL should be disregarded.”

Experience elsewhere shows that the number of deaf students going to university was declining. In Northern Ireland, The National Union of Students and the Union of Students recently reported that the number of deaf students going to university had declined from 240 five years ago to 95 at present. Signature is calling on the government to prevent a similar situation developing nationwide, by tackling the problem at GCSE level.

Paul added: “If deaf students are able to gain a qualification in their first language whilst still at school, they will feel more comfortable and confident about going to university. We need to do all we can to create an environment of inclusion, widen participation and increase access before it’s too late.”

The full curriculum will be published in the autumn.

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