Yesterday (Monday 5th of March) a debate was help in the House of Commons. The issue raised, making British Sign Language, the first language of around 70 000 people in Britain, apart of the national curriculum and allowing the go ahead to make it a GCSE.
This debate was opened by Liz Twist, the Blaydon MP, who I met in September. She called for BSL to be taught in schools and recognised as a GCSE, putting it on the same level as other subjects taught in schools. The education may say that schools are free to teach BSL is they choose to, but with everything else they have to teach, for many schools they don’t have the time to teach BSL. But by putting BSL into the Curriculum, it means that it will be taught in schools, which will be beneficial to both deaf and hearing students.
BSL needs to be taught in schools, it is too expensive otherwise, upwards of £200 for Level 1 and very few areas offer classes. There is also a shortage of interpreters, which is putting finical strain on the government and Asses to Work Scheme, if BSL was offered as a GCSE it would open up more interest in interpreting as a job and open up barriers that have previously been closed to deaf people.
The education ministers argument for why BSL cannot be a GCSE and apart of the national curriculum is that schools can teach it if they wish to and there are levels which are recognised which can be taken, also that many secondary schools are now academies so do not have to follow the national curriculum. However, schools and teachers as much as they would like to teach things outside of the curriculum cannot as the examinations that students must take ensure that there is little time to do anything but follow the exam requirements. If BSL is made into a GCSE, which has already been designed and tested in a few schools, it would give schools an opportunity to teach BSL and allow young people to experience a different language and culture.
In school you can learn Hebrew, Latin French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, is the education minster saying that British Sign Language is not equal to these other languages? It is one of the official languages of our island, we have the right to learn it and have the qualification to prove it.