Closed 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.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

35,203 signatures

100,000

Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 5 March 2018

Pc liz twist wh 050318

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 for some children and young people with a hearing impairment, the use of BSL is a vital method of communication 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

Other parliamentary business

Government changes response to petition on BSL

The Government’s response to this petition has changed.

This change was made on Thursday 14 March 2018.

This is because the Government contacted the Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) to request permission to change the first paragraph of the response.

The first paragraph previously began:

“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.”

The Government asked to change this paragraph to read as follows:

“We recognise that for some children and young people with a hearing impairment, the use of BSL is a vital method of communication and is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 deaf people in the UK”.

We’ve now published the revised response. You can read it here:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200000

You can read a letter from the Government Minister responsible here:
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/petitions/Minister-Education-Chair-BSL-petition-050318.pdf

MPs to debate BSL being part of the National Curriculum - with live simultaneous BSL interpretation

On Monday 5 March, MPs will debate British Sign Language being part of the National Curriculum.

The debate will start at 4.30pm and will be opened by Liz Twist MP, a member of the Petitions Committee. You can watch it live at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons.

You'll be able to watch a live simultaneous BSL interpretation of the debate on parliamentlive.tv. A transcript and subtitled version will be available within hours of the debate.  

This is the first time that simultaneous BSL interpretation has been streamed live during a House of Commons debate.
 
Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, Chairman of Ways and Means and Principal Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, said:
 
“The House of Commons is working to make all parliamentary business more accessible to everyone, including people with hearing impairments. We were so pleased to include full BSL translation for the first time in November 2017 for a debate on Deafness and Hearing Loss, but simultaneous translation for the live TV feed has been a complex challenge. I’m thrilled it is now happening in Westminster Hall. It’s fantastic to be part of making the House of Commons more accessible to deaf people.”
 

Who are the Petitions Committee?

We are a group of cross-party MPs called the Petitions Committee. We are independent from Government. You can find out more about us on our website: http://www.parliament.uk/petitions-committee/role

You can follow us on Twitter: @HoCpetitions

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.