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Lindsay Foster: BSL and the national curriculum

Added 08 May 2017

On 3 May 2017, we saw another petition campaigning for the addition of BSL to the national curriculum close. In our first ever Signature blog, executive director Lindsay Foster shares her thoughts on the Government’s response the petition and what this means for Signature:

We actually weren’t surprised by the response to the petition; we know that the Government believes BSL doesn’t fit the current framework for Modern Foreign Languages as there is no written form, but we certainly won’t be detracted from our ongoing campaign to launch a BSL qualification for secondary education (what we want to see become a GCSE in England).

Although Signature didn’t create or endorse this petition in particular, understanding the Government response from previous similar petitions, it’s always disappointing to see negative or defeatist attitudes towards deaf communication and we should be using this feedback to take the conversation forward about BSL in education.

Teaching BSL in secondary schools is essential for a more inclusive environment for deaf learners and has shown to have a powerful impact on literacy for all students, deaf and hearing. We want more young people to leave school with the ability to sign to a high level, to see better communication between deaf and hearing communities, and more people inspired to start a BSL related career. This qualification would give deaf learners the opportunity to achieve a recognised qualification in their first language.

BSL cannot be written, but it can be recorded, and therefore revisited, reviewed, and practiced. We want to see the Government looking at the bigger picture, and not disregarding the merits of BSL, a visual-gestural language with its own grammatical structure, because it doesn’t have the structure of an oral-aural language.

Our work on developing a qualification in BSL for secondary education, which is currently in its pilot phase, will continue. Once the pilot is complete, Signature will campaign for it to receive the attention it deserves. We accept that seeing BSL introduced to the national curriculum is challenging, but our success will give teachers and students the option of teaching and achieving a GCSE in BSL.

You can keep up to date with Signature’s work so far in BSL for secondary education and what it means for teachers, parents and students on our website.

You can read the Government’s response to the petition here.