From the time that I heard that Signature had piloted a GCSE in British Sign Language, I realised that a qualification like this would be a huge benefit for Deaf children like me and the wider Deaf community. When the government refused to develop this further, I wanted to get behind the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) “Right to Sign” campaign and little did I realise that this would lead to a successful legal challenge and a five-year long campaign to see the creation of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL).
Sadly, the development of the GCSE was delayed for a few years while the Department of Education needed to focus on the effects of the pandemic. So, it was a huge relief that on Thursday 15th June the Department of Education finally announced the launch of the public consultation on the GCSE which runs until the 8th of September. This gives us twelve weeks to evaluate the BSL GCSE itself and to provide suggestions on if and how it should be improved. It is crucial that as many people as possible take part, from Deaf people and organisations to BSL interpreters and teachers. This is your chance to share your views with the Department of Education so they can consider what you have suggested to them!
So, why is it so important? Why should you be involved? The main vision for BSL GCSE is to enable Deaf students the equality of opportunity to achieve a recognized qualification in their own native language, while also educating hearing students about BSL itself and how it relates to deaf history. In addition, I truly hope that both Deaf and hearing students in the same school will be able to communicate with each other through BSL. This should hopefully contribute to the removal of some barriers in which Deaf people will have to face. They should be encouraged to use BSL, as it will prove to be more useful than achieving a GCSE in French, German or Spanish because you are more likely to meet a Deaf person than a French person in Britain. Introducing a GCSE in BSL will transform the lives of many people and this is my vision for the future.
If you are involved in the consultation, then you will help to ensure that the GCSE’s standard is high and that the students will find the GCSE to be engaging and interesting. This is your opportunity to show the Department of Education what your expectations are and why GCSE BSL is so important to you. From this, the Department of Education can make amends to the curriculum so your expectations and concerns can be answered. This opportunity is not to be missed and I would like to see many people with different experiences and backgrounds to participate so the GCSE can be engaging and informative for all students in secondary education.
Finally, I want to thank you for supporting our campaign! Without your support, the BSL GCSE would not happen. With the BSL Act (2022), I hope that BSL will finally get the status it deserves. I would like to say thank you to the British Deaf Association (BDA) who successfully campaigned for a BSL Act!
Once again, thank you. Please get involved in the consultation and, together, we can ensure that the GCSE BSL will be successful!