Petition Make British Sign Language part of the National Curriculum

Around 50,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language, so why is this not taught in schools? There are many children who are born deaf, and we need to give them a better chance at a more integrated future. This is why BSL needs to be taught in schools.

Sign this petition

24,014 signatures

Show on a map

100,000

Government responded

BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government in 2003. Whilst it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so.

Read the response in full

We recognise that BSL is a useful tool for deaf people and is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 deaf people in the UK.  BSL has been recognised by the government as a language in its own right since March 2003. There are existing accredited BSL qualifications including a Level 1 award, Level 2, 3 and 4 certificates and a Level 6 NVQ certificate. The Level 1 and 2 qualifications, equivalent to GCSE grades A*-G or 9-1, have the highest take up. Schools are free to enter pupils for these awards at any point in their school career. We are also aware that the 2015 Consortium for Research into Deaf Education survey of teachers of the deaf in the UK showed that the vast majority (around 86%) of deaf children use spoken language as their main language in schools. 

We have no plans to change the current national curriculum for schools.  The national curriculum has been designed to focus on the essential knowledge that must be taught, allowing teachers to take greater control over the wider curriculum in schools and how it is taught. It is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.

Department for Education

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Other parliamentary business

MPs ask Government for a clearer response to BSL petition

The Government’s response to this petition has changed. This change was made on 14 November 2017.

This is because the Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) did not think that the Government’s first response addressed the request made by the petition. The response explained why BSL could not be assessed as a modern foreign language, which was not what the petition asked for.

The Committee wrote to the Department for Education to ask for a new response which answered the petition more directly.

The Government has produced a new response which reads as follows:

BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government in 2003. Whilst it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so.

We recognise that BSL is a useful tool for deaf people and is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 deaf people in the UK.  BSL has been recognised by the government as a language in its own right since March 2003. There are existing accredited BSL qualifications including a Level 1 award, Level 2, 3 and 4 certificates and a Level 6 NVQ certificate. The Level 1 and 2 qualifications, equivalent to GCSE grades A*-G or 9-1, have the highest take up. Schools are free to enter pupils for these awards at any point in their school career. We are also aware that the 2015 Consortium for Research into Deaf Education survey of teachers of the deaf in the UK showed that the vast majority (around 86%) of deaf children use spoken language as their main language in schools. 

We have no plans to change the current national curriculum for schools.  The national curriculum has been designed to focus on the essential knowledge that must be taught, allowing teachers to take greater control over the wider curriculum in schools and how it is taught. It is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.

This replaces the Government’s original response, which was:

BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government in 2003. Whilst it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so.

We recognise and acknowledge that British Sign Language can be a beneficial subject that schools can choose to teach. However, we don’t have plans to make BSL part of the national curriculum.

The national curriculum sets out which subjects local authority maintained schools (but not academies or free schools) must teach. In addition to meeting their statutory duties to teach the national curriculum, maintained schools are free to teach any other subject or topic they deem relevant for their pupils. Schools can therefore teach BSL as part of their wider curriculum.

The teaching of a foreign language is statutory at key stages 2 and 3 for pupils in maintained schools. Even though BSL is recognised as a language, the national curriculum programmes of study for languages contain a number of requirements that could not be met through BSL; for example at key stage 2 the requirement to describe people, places, things and actions in writing. A maintained school would be unable to meet the curriculum requirement solely by teaching BSL. Therefore, BSL is a subject that schools have freedom to teach in addition to foreign languages.

Share this petition