Nearly 50,000 people in the UK are thought to use British Sign Language, so why are children not taught it in schools?
This week MPs discussed the possibility of introducing British Sign Language into the national curriculum. The appeal came after a petition calling for BSL to be made a GCSE attracted more than 32,000 signatures.
The petition states, “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.”
Labour’s Liz Twist raised the issue, explaining how the petitioners believed that making BSL a part of the curriculum would give “better life chances to young people who are deaf”.
She said “Research by the National Deaf Children’s Society into the attainment of deaf children in 2017 shows that deaf children continue to underachieve throughout their education, compared with other children.”
The appeal also follows the success of Oscar winning film The Silent Child. The Silent Child stars six year old Maisie Sly, who is profoundly deaf.
"I made a promise to our six year old lead actress that I'd sign this speech" says Rachel Shenton who co-stars with Maisie in The Silent Child.
In 2016, 41% of deaf children achieved five GCSEs at A* to C grade, compared to 69% of children with no identified special needs.
“That is a difference of more than 20%, which is just not acceptable in this day and age” said Twist. “A pilot GCSE has been trialled and is ready to go, but the Department for Education is refusing to give it the go-ahead.”
“I ask the minister to talk to his colleagues in other departments, and to work with them to agree the GCSE and make it available to students.”
Dawn Butler, Labour’s education spokeswoman said that “now is the time to remove the structural barriers.”
“We need more access to work, not less - we need to invest in it so that deaf people can reach their full potential.
I hope when the minister gets to his feet he will have some good news for the deaf community and BSL users. I ask him to please make BSL a GCSE.”
But Education Minister, Nick Gibb said there were at current, no plans to change the national curriculum.
“It is important after the hugely extensive reforms to GCSEs and A-levels that schools have a period of stability,” he said.
Since the appeal the petition has already gained another 2,500 signatures. Sign here.