• British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE

    02 May 2018

    Dear Constituent

    Thank you for contacting me about British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE.

    BSL is a vital method of communication for many people and the first or preferred language for an estimated 70,000 deaf people across the country. I know that colleagues in the Department for Education are committed to the education of all children and young people with special educational needs or disability, including those with a hearing impairment.

    I am encouraged that schools may choose to offer BSL as part of their wider school curriculum or varied programme of extra-curricular activities. Schools can also offer accredited BSL qualifications. I also welcome the fact that BSL is now an alternative to a level 1 and level 2 qualification in English when undertaking an apprenticeship. This enables those who use BSL to complete their apprenticeship without having to achieve another English qualification.

    I have been assured by colleagues in the Department for Education that the Government does not object in principle to the development of a GCSE in BSL. However, I know that schools have asked for a period of stability to provide them with a chance to embed the extensive reforms to GCSEs and A levels. For this reason, the Secretary of State has committed to making no further reforms to GCSEs or A levels in this Parliament.

    Nevertheless, I understand that the Department for Education has indicated to Signature, the awarding organisation proposing to develop the GCSE, that it is open to considering a proposal for a new GCSE for possible introduction in the longer term. The development of new qualifications is a lengthy process which is likely to take several years, but I remain confident that any proposals will be considered very carefully and I will continue to follow this matter with great interest.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    Yours sincerely

    Mel Stride

    MP for Central Devon

    Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General