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Government's response to the petition to teach BSL in all schools

You may remember recently there was an online petition for sign language for the teaching of British Sign Language in all UK schools.

The Government has now responded:

We recognise the tremendous value of British Sign Language (BSL) in helping hard of hearing pupils throughout their educational careers.

The National Curriculum, however, has been developed carefully over the years to provide young people with an entitlement to the essential knowledge and skills that will equip them for success in further education or training and in the world of work. It is important that the National Curriculum should offer a broad and balanced education, but we must avoid over-prescription of what is taught and leave sufficient time and space for schools to personalise their offer to address individual needs and aptitudes. The balance we now have is the result of extensive consultation and trialling but it is not fixed for all time and we will continue to monitor and review curriculum content at intervals to ensure that it still meets the needs of all young people.

The secondary National Curriculum is currently being reviewed in order to reduce prescription still further and to create more freedom for teachers to use their professional judgement in designing subject curricula. Across the whole of our 14-19 reform agenda we are developing further opportunities for young people to exercise choice about what they study and how, with the introduction of diplomas, apprenticeships and so on. In this context, we do not feel it would be appropriate to introduce a new statutory requirement to teach British Sign Language in all schools.

It is also worth noting that the National Curriculum does not represent all the teaching that goes on in schools. Teachers are free to introduce other experiences and subjects if they wish to do so, as long as they are also meeting the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum. The SEN and Disability Act, which was introduced in September 2002, means that more disabled children are now learning in mainstream schools, where that is what their parents want. This means that schools are developing a greater understanding of the needs of disabled people and in some schools this may well lead to teachers deciding to offer sign language to help ensure a child with a hearing impairment is fully included in school life.

In conclusion therefore, it is right that schools should have the opportunity to teach BSL but we would not wish to specify that it must be taught to all pupils. We believe rather that this should remain a matter for schools to decide in view of their own local, and possibly more pressing, needs.

* Department for Education and Skills
* Teachernet

Those who have worked in this field will see this response as no surprise, but the bottom line it is still pathetic and avoids the issue. Probably as a point of cost, but it still highlights a deficit in policy around inclusion and the need to recognise diversity. It fails to recognise that the SEN and Disability Act has a number of shortcomings, in respect of sign language. Secondly, it totally misses the point that language can be compulsory, for example Welsh in Wales. It fails to address the lack of status BSL still has, and measures needed to be introduced to raise this, to bring the language on par with say French, as an option within schools.

I wonder if new petitions could be introduced, with its wording to almost argue with the government's response.

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Comments (3)

You can always point out that you can learn French, German etc as part of National Curriculum. A hearing person pointed this out to me actually, saying this to me:

Guess how many time I've met a French person or a French speaker in UK in my entire life...

Now guess how many time I've walked around a town and noticed someone signing in BSL?

At the end of the day - you are more likely to meet a BSL signer than you are to meet a French-speaking person in UK. Thus learning BSL would be of more benefit to UK as a whole.

After a night's sleep...some more thoughts:

They are saying essentially "want BSL in schools? Accept mainstreaming then" and then we are going to hear stories about deaf children having a "CSW" that is qualified to either level 1 or level 2.

That's no education. My wife have such a CSW at college and she miss out on hell a lot and she's an adult, what chance does a child have?!

Anyhow I take offence at this quote:

"more disabled children are now learning in mainstream schools, where that is what their parents want."

Then why am I reading in the newspapers where parents want MORE specialist teachers not LESS for disabilities, because teacher in a typical school have had no training whatsoever to deal with disabled pupils, in a class size of 30 or more??

Look like a new petition is needed - one that is aimed AGAINST mainstreaming and to prevent the closure of more specialist schools that caters to all range of disabilities.

Sure the Government will ignore it, but come electron time, you can bet the oppostion parties will take the mockery out of how Labor have utterly ignored everyone and that's not far off. That have to be on their mind.

We need to petition the Government with the aim to include learning BSL at all schools, not only to pupils with deafness and disability but to those who wish to begin learning BSL in their quest to become a BSL interpreter as their career, rather than saying for fun or as a hobby. The pupils have the right to choose what job they wish to do in the future. With the signing skills they have learnt at school they will be well prepared when they go in college and university, to get their higher grades and qualification.

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