Potential progress to have BSL as a GCSE?

Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for Schools, seems to have changed his mind slightly on there being a GCSE in British Sign Language.

Following the debate in Parliament to have BSL on the National Curriculum, Peter Aldous (Conservative MP for Waveney) asked the Minister what progress had been made on enabling the GCSE’s introduction.

Here’s how Nick Gibb responded:

There are no plans to introduce any new GCSEs in this Parliament, to allow schools a period of stability following the recent reforms. However, the Government is open to considering a proposal for a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE for possible introduction in the longer term. We have indicated this to Signature, the awarding organisation proposing to develop a GCSE in BSL, and the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Any new GCSE would need to meet the rigorous expectations for subject content, which are set by the Department for Education. It would also need to meet the expectations for assessment and regulatory requirements, which are set by Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator. The Department and Ofqual will consider carefully any proposals put forward in due course.

It grinds my gears that he’s still using the ‘period of stability following the recent reforms’ excuse – a GCSE in BSL which has support can’t happen yet, because reforms that didn’t have support did happen?

I’m curious what the ‘rigorous expectations for subject content’ would be. The petition which led to the debate in Parliament had previously received a government response, which mentioned:

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.

Although BSL isn’t a written language, users are still able to describe people, places, things and actions through signing. Written work can still be included, however, through writing about issues that the deaf community face or comparing BSL and English grammar and regional differences.

Another National Curriculum expectation for a language’s subject content requires pupils to participate and ‘listen’ to conversations. Needless to say, listening isn’t always possible for deaf pupils, but does this mean they can’t learn another language? Of course not.

Hopefully the Department of Education and Ofqual will consider this when working with Signature, and make exceptions.

But… Nick Gibb working with Signature and NDCS is definitely an improvement.


  1. Need more pressure on government from DEAF people and also hereditary deaf. Also more CODAS should be involved.!

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