No progress in Sign Language GCSE despite government pledge

Ministers pledged to introduce the qualification after legal action threat

Deaf school children are no closer to knowing when they will be able take a Sign Language GCSE after the government once again refused to commit to a timeframe.

In October, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the qualification would be rolled out “as soon as possible”, with a public consultation set to take place in 2020.

However, in answer to a question about the progress of the GCSE on Monday January 13, Gibb was no clearer in when the exam would come into force – and the mention of the public consultation had been dropped.

The government committed to introducing the new qualification after a threat of legal action by the family of a 12-year-old deaf pupil in 2018.

Daniel Jillings, from Lowestoft in Suffolk, uses British Sign Language and lawyers for his family argued not offering a qualification in what is his first language could be “discriminatory and unlawful”.

Responding to a written question from fellow Conservative MP Michael Fabricant, Gibb said: “The Department is aiming to introduce a GCSE in British Sign Language as soon as possible, so long as it proves possible to develop a qualification that meets the rigorous requirements that apply to all GCSEs.

“The Department is currently working with subject experts to develop draft subject content.

“Schools may choose to offer basic sign language in their individual school curriculum or include it as part of their extra-curricular activities programme.”

The government had pledged not to introduce any new GCSE subjects until 2022, but agreed to make an exception in the case of British Sign Language.

Pressure mounted on ministers in March 2018, when a petition calling for sign language to be added to the national curriculum secured more than 35,000 signatures and prompted a debate in Parliament.

According to the British Deaf Association, 151,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language, and 87,000 of these are deaf.

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