Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : British Sign Language GCSE moves one step closer to the classroom [June 2023]

The press release issued by the Department for Education on 15 June 2023.

New GCSE will be the first of its kind and will teach students how to communicate through sign language.

Students are one step closer to the British Sign Language (BSLGCSE being taught in schools, as the government launches a 12-week consultation on the content of the new qualification.

The qualification will include students being taught to communicate effectively with other signers for use in work, social and academic settings, providing them with valuable life skills welcomed by employers.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been working closely with subject experts, stakeholders and schools to develop proposed content to ensure that this new GCSE is internationally recognised and accepted in school and college performance tables. In line all qualifications, the GCSE will be knowledge-rich, diverse and as challenging as any other GCSE.

Views on the new qualification, including the language skills to be studied and the role of history, are being sought from teachers, employers and the deaf and hearing communities. The government aims to introduce this for first teaching from September 2025.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

It is fantastic that British Sign Language will soon be taught in schools up and down the country.

Good communication is essential both inside and outside the workplace and this historic GCSE will give students a vital life skill valued by employers.

This new qualification will break down barriers, advance equality of opportunity, and celebrate the history and rich culture of British Sign Language.

Ofqual Chief Regulator Dr Jo Saxton said:

At their best, qualifications increase opportunities and break down barriers. This GCSE in British Sign Language will do that by encouraging more people to study the language, so I’m delighted to be launching our consultation on how students should be assessed in this exciting new GCSE.

The proposals reflect our judgements about how the Department for Education’s subject content should be assessed to best allow students to demonstrate their performance in this subject. We want anyone with an interest in this new GCSE subject to tell us what they think about our proposals and whether these allow students the best opportunity to show how well they understand and can use British Sign Language.

Susan Daniels OBE, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

We’re delighted that a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) is now a step closer.

BSL is a native British language used by tens of thousands of people, so it’s only fair and right that BSL users should have the opportunity to achieve a GCSE in their own, legally recognised language. This qualification will help to breakdown communication barriers between deaf and hearing people and educate more people about the deaf community and culture.

We know there are incredibly high levels of support for a BSL GCSE among both deaf and hearing students, as well as from their parents. Our recent survey also found teachers overwhelmingly believe sign language would be a useful skill for both deaf and hearing students to learn.

Tasha Ghouri, influencer and activist for the deaf community said:

As lots of you will know, being deaf is my ‘superpower’. But as someone who has had a cochlear implant since 5 years old and relies on lip-reading – going to school had its challenges.

Being included and made to feel equal means everything to me and I’ve been on a personal mission to raise awareness of the challenges facing deaf children.

That’s why I’m absolutely delighted that today, the government has announced it will soon be launching a brand new GCSE in British Sign Language which will be available to all pupils.

Ian Morgan, Chief Executive, Eduqas, said:

As one of England’s largest exam boards, Eduqas is committed to supporting the development of a new GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL); this builds on exciting work already underway in Wales to design a new GCSE BSL for WJEC students by September 2026.

Equality and inclusion matter to us, and we’re confident that this pioneering new GCSE will boost the profile of the language and play an important role in increasing the number of speakers from all communities.

We look forward to working closely with teachers, learners and subject experts to create a qualification that is engaging, relevant, and fit for the future.

Lindsay Foster, Executive Director at Signature said:

It’s great to get the public consultation out there, so that the public can see what a GCSE in BSL could look like.

We have been working towards a BSL GCSE for over 12 years now, so this feels like a milestone moment. What is important now is that people have their say on subject content and we look forward to seeing the outcome of that.

From the secondary schools we have spoken with, around 60% have told us that they would like to offer this as part of their curriculum. We really hope that over the years to come we see this in as many schools as possible.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, said:

The British Sign Language (BSL) Act is helping make our society more accessible, opening doors to better communication for more Deaf people.

BSL GCSE is a fantastic step in the right direction, encouraging more students to learn BSL to help increase the number of BSL users that Deaf people can speak with, making the UK an even more inclusive society.

The recently published special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (APimprovement plan set out how all children and young people, including those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, will get the support they need to succeed in their education.

British Sign Language was recognised in law as a language of Great Britain in the BSL Act (2022) and the new GCSE will be key to advancing inclusivity within education.

The study of BSL will enable students to develop ways of expressing and negotiating meaning through visual spatial language, communication and visual memory skills that will be an advantage to them for the rest of their lives.

As well as learning how to sign effectively, the GCSE will also give students an understanding of the history of sign language in the UK. This will provide a solid foundation for students’ understanding of how the language has reached its current form.