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British Sign Language to be Offered as GCSE Subject

education

British Sign Language (BSL) is likely to be available within the GCSE curriculum from September 2025 in a move to increase life skills and boost inclusivity in schools.

The news comes after more than a decade of campaigning by numerous activists and charities backed by celebrities such as Tasha Ghouri.

British Sign Language

The Department for Education has today announced that the new GCSE in BSL will provide pupils with the opportunity to learn how to effectively communicate with deaf individuals. The subject content has been published and aims to provide pupils with an important life skill.

The earliest that new students will be able to start studying for a GSCE in BSL, which will also teach the history of the language in the UK, will be September 2025, by which time the exam board syllabuses are expected to be approved.

About 12 million adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss. According to the National Deaf Children’s Society, about 151,000 people in the UK can use BSL, and it is the first or preferred language for about 87,000 deaf people. A survey of deaf and hearing young people by the organisation found more than 90% wanted BSL taught in schools.

Moreover, Following a 12-week public consultation by the Government, responses provided overwhelmingly positive support for the introduction of the BSL GCSE.

However, it has been noted that giving schools the resources to teach BSL is likely to be a challenge. Signature, the leading awarding body for deaf communication and language qualifications in the UK, has about 1,220 teachers registered, but said it did not yet know what level of qualification would be required to teach the GSCE. There are about 3,500 secondary schools in England.

Responses

Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said campaigners had done “an incredible amount of work” to bring BSL into schools. “A GCSE in BSL is vital as it will break down barriers and celebrate the rich culture and history of British Sign Language,” she said.

“There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but everyone is working hard to make sure the GCSE in BSL is the success we all want it to be,” said Matthew Ford, a spokesperson for Signature.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the boost to inclusivity in schools, but said the government had to recognise practical constraints “because schools are under tremendous pressure in terms of staffing, finances and time”, and called for more investment.

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said learning sign language would help pupils to develop expression and negotiation through visual spatial language, communication and visual memory skills, which would benefit them throughout their lives. “Studying British Sign Language can open so many doors for young people, giving pupils an understanding of how thousands of people communicate and ultimately even expanding job prospects,” she said.

Curia’s Levelling Up Commission

The Levelling Up Commission intends to consider ways to implement the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper and subsequent Bill from the perspective of local and regional government. Too often the Levelling Up agenda is something being done ‘to and for’ local and regional government, the Commission intends to make sure it is done ‘with and by’ them.

Through roundtable meetings with MPs and senior leaders of local and regional government from across the UK, quantitative data analysis and regional sprints, the Commission intends to set out a series of recommendations to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public services in four key areas:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Education, Skills and Training
  • Crime, Justice and Rehabilitation

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