BSL test announced for new Deaf apprentices

Deaf engineering apprentice Max Buxton

Deaf students and school leavers struggling to gain adequate qualifications will now be given better access to apprenticeships thanks to changes announced by the Department for Education today (Jan 5th).

For the first time since the scheme was introduced, deaf apprentices enrolled on vocational courses will no longer be required to pass the English functional school test which, until now, had been a compulsory requirement for all participants.

Instead, deaf students who fail or are unable to undertake the test will be able to complete the schemes by obtaining an alternative British Sign Language qualification.

Commenting on the changes, Skills Minister Robert Halfon said he believed it would enable more people with learning and physical disadvantages to find a foothold in the world of work.
“For those whose first language is BSL, this simple change will allow them to achieve their full potential,” he said.

“I am committed to breaking down barriers to ensure people of all ages and all backgrounds get on the ladder of opportunity through an apprenticeship.
“I look forward to implementing more changes like this to make sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible.”

High-quality apprenticeships are essential to support employers and address skills shortages facing industry so that everyone, regardless of background, gets the chance they deserve to succeed. English and maths are a key element of this.

Engineering apprentice Max Buxton said: “Being deaf and dyslexic, I find English tests really hard. It’s very difficult to translate BSL into English and for it all to make sense. My employer has said how well I’m doing and doesn’t think my language skills are an issue, but I still can’t complete the apprenticeship without passing that test. It’s an unfair, unnecessary rule that has created a lot of stress, so I’m very pleased things are changing now.”

Brian Gale, policy and campaigns director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We’re delighted that the Government has committed to these changes, because it was making it very challenging for some deaf young people to complete their course”

“Most deaf young people move to vocational education at 16, and apprenticeships are a much-needed route to employment. For those whose first language is BSL, this simple change will mean they truly have equal opportunities to achieve their potential.”

The changes are due to be implemented in April.