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A Scottish take on the new BSL GCSE

Published Date: 22 Feb 2024

When we saw the news that England and Wales are going to introduce British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE subject, we were thrilled and hopeful. It’s so important for young people to get the opportunity to explore and celebrate deaf culture by learning BSL.

As part of the GCSE, students will be taught at least 750 signs and how to use them to communicate effectively with other signers for use in work, social and academic settings. Students will also learn about the history of BSL and how it evolved into the language it is today.

Many of our friends and family reached out to share their joy in the news of the BSL GCSE. It wasn’t long before discussions moved to Scotland’s stance on this change. And, I have to admit, I was surprised that Scotland hadn’t made this move first. Particularly when our BSL national plan 2023-2029 states that it “represents our ongoing commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit and learn.”

French and Spanish among many other languages have been on offer in Scottish schools for years. Since becoming a teacher, I have taken every opportunity to teach my pupils about deaf culture and BSL. We explore how BSL is a vibrant and important language, with its own grammar, syntax and vocabulary. They respond with so much enthusiasm on the subject and absolutely love learning new signs.

Similarly, anytime I mention to parents about teaching BSL the responses are overwhelming. Most believe it’s a fantastic learning opportunity and voice that they would like it to be offered to their child as a language in school. Some argued they feel BSL would be more useful than the languages currently being taught in schools.

We fully support this move made by England and Wales. We hope we see similar changes made in Scottish education. It would be fantastic for Scotland to follow suit and make BSL available to learn in mainstream schools as part of the current modern languages curriculum.

Olivia, and all children, deserve to grow up in a country where they can be proud that BSL is an integral part of their education. A change like this would boost accessibility, equality, inclusion and deaf awareness across education and, in turn, the world our deaf children will grow up in.

Yasmin and Scott

Yasmin and Scott are parents to Olivia (2), who is profoundly deaf. Olivia and her family are currently learning British Sign Language (BSL). They live at home in Scotland with their wee dog, Milo.