New British Sign Language GCSE heading for classrooms

Pupils across the country will soon be able to take the British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE as the subject content has been published, providing pupils with an important life skill and advancing inclusivity within education. 

Parents, teachers and organisations from the deaf and hearing communities have provided overwhelmingly positive support for the introduction of the BSL GCSE, following a 12-week public consultation. 

The government said responses have helped ensure the content is knowledge-rich, diverse in its teaching and challenging. Students who take this GCSE will learn to communicate effectively with other signers in work, social and academic settings and possess valuable life skills. 

With the aim to have exam board syllabuses approved from September 2025, the BSL GCSE will teach students to effectively communicate using BSL and provide an understanding of the history of BSL in the UK. 

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said: “It’s fantastic to see such an overwhelming amount of support across both the education sector and the deaf and hearing communities for this new GCSE. 

“Studying British Sign Language can open so many doors for young people, giving pupils an understanding of how thousands of people communicate and ultimately even expanding job prospects. 

“This new qualification will not only break down barriers and give young people valuable new skills, but also celebrate the history and rich culture of British Sign Language.” 

Influencer and activist for the deaf community, Tasha Ghouri said: “It’s so important to have inclusivity in schools. 

“Accessibility is something I massively stand for and it’s amazing that BSL is now a GCSE course and students will soon have the opportunity to learn the foundations of BSL, the history and how it was formed. 

“It’s such a beautiful language to learn. Thank you to everyone who has supported this step in the right direction!” 

Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, Susan Daniels OBE said: “After more than a decade of campaigning for a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) we’re delighted we now have the finalised course content published.  

“A GCSE in BSL is vital as it will break down barriers and celebrate the rich culture and history of British Sign Language. An incredible amount of work has been undertaken to get to this point, not least from young deaf campaigner Daniel Jillings who fought so hard for the right to study a GCSE in BSL.” 

In line with all qualifications, the GCSE is open to all pupils and will be recognised and accepted in school and college performance tables. 

An internationally recognised qualification, pupils who study this will 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 government said 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 reached its current form. 

The government added that the recently published special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP) improvement 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. 

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