Lindsay Foster: BSL in secondary schools

Posted on September 22, 2017

This article is posted in association with Signature, who are a supporter of this site. Find out more about them here.

Last week’s setback to the NDCS’s Right to Sign Campaign has not detracted Signature from their hard work and determination in creating and launching a BSL qualification for secondary schools. Lindsay Foster, chief executive at Signature, explains why this is needed and how it will work: 

Why is it important that such a qualification is available?

Teaching BSL in schools is essential for a more inclusive environment for deaf learners and has shown to have a powerful impact on literacy for all students. We know that a BSL qualification for young people will contribute to a future with fewer barriers between hearing and deaf people and give every BSL user more opportunities in education, employment and socially.

We want more young people to leave school with the ability to sign to a high level, communicate much better with deaf people, and even be inspired to start a BSL-related career. For signing deaf learners, they will have the opportunity to achieve a recognised qualification in their first language.

What is happening with the qualification today?

We’ve recently completed a successful pilot of the qualification in schools across England. We are maintaining regular contact with the Department for Education to promote our cause, provide updates and get feedback at every stage of the process.

As an awarding body it is our role to create qualifications. We have done this, but we can only offer this to schools as a GCSE with the Department for Education’s approval. Until their decision is reversed, deaf young people across England will continue to miss out on a GCSE qualification.

The future of BSL in secondary schools

If a GCSE in BSL is approved, we anticipate that first schools to deliver it will be a variety of deaf schools, schools with deaf units, mainstream schools with deaf students, and schools already teaching our existing BSL qualifications.

The qualifications required to teach BSL in schools is at the discretion of each school. We believe that many schools will employ peripatetic teachers – meaning that native BSL users don’t need any qualifications to teach BSL in secondary schools, and can teach at multiple schools. This model is working well for our other BSL qualifications and is often the case with other languages and specialist subjects like music and sport. It’s common for deaf teachers to teach BSL to hearing people, very effectively, without interpreters.

We fully believe that BSL qualifications should be offered to secondary school students.

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