Young people want sign language lessons at school

15 May 2017

• Vast majority of deaf and hearing children keen to learn sign language
• 97% want it taught in schools and 92% want it to be a GCSE option
• National charity launching youth-led campaign for change

British Sign Language in schools

An overwhelming 97%  of young people think British Sign Language (BSL) should be taught in schools, according to a report published by the National Deaf Children’s Society today (Monday 15 May) to mark the start of Deaf Awareness Week.

The charity surveyed more than 2,000 deaf and hearing people aged 8-25 across the UK, after its Young People’s Advisory Board said lack of access to BSL was a key concern. The language is not taught in most schools and private lessons are expensive.

Findings highlight significant interest in BSL among young people, with 91%  keen to study it and 92%  calling for it to be offered as a GCSE (or National 4/5 in Scotland). They also suggest this is not only a deaf issue; hearing respondents actually showed more interest in learning BSL than deaf respondents. 

In light of this research, the charity has launched a Right to Sign campaign, calling for BSL to be included on the national curriculum so that all schools can give students the opportunity to learn it.

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, commented: “Everyone in the UK, deaf or hearing, should have the opportunity  to learn BSL – but most people miss out as it’s rarely taught in schools and private lessons are expensive.

“If we are to break down barriers to learning BSL, it must be included on the national curriculum. This survey shows that children and young people really want to learn BSL, so we urge the Department for Education to respond to this demand.”

British actress and BSL user Rachel Shenton, best known for starring roles in Switched at Birth and Hollyoaks, has already declared her support for the campaign.

Rachel said: “The government recognised BSL as a language in its own right 14 years ago, so to me it seems crazy that we don't learn it in schools. I feel passionately that everyone should have the opportunity to learn BSL.”

Youth Advisory Board member Erin, 17, added: “BSL is one of the languages of the UK so it’s important that, as well as knowing other languages to communicate with people across seas, we can communicate with people in our own country.”

Young people gave varied reasons for wanting to learn BSL, from social inclusion and deaf awareness to employability and communication skills. Some argued it could benefit those who struggle with reading and writing or speak English as a second language.

To find out more and support the campaign, go to buzz.org.uk/righttosign

                                               ENDS

Notes to editors 

About British Sign Language (BSL)
• BSL is the first or preferred language of around 70,000 Deaf people in the UK. It is a visual-gestural language with its own grammar and principles, completely different from English.
• BSL was recognised by UK government as a language in its own right in 2003, but it is not protected as a minority language like Welsh etc.

About the National Deaf Children’s Society
• The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity for deaf children and young people. Our vision is a world without barriers for deaf children and their families.
• The Youth Advisory Board is a group of 16 deaf young people from across the UK who inform the work of the charity and help campaign for change.
• There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. The National Deaf Children’s Society provides impartial, practical and emotional support to children and families, and challenges governments and society to meet their needs. 

Source: NDCS

Contact: media@ndcs.org.uk