Sign Language to be Offered in English Schools

Teaching BSL will increase life skills and boost inclusion in schools


Teacher instructing a class on signing.

(Pixel-Shot /

Schools in England will be offering British Sign Language as a general certificate of secondary education (GCSE) subject as a way of boosting life skills and inclusion. This is something that comes after a decade of campaigning that was backed by celebrities including Rose Ayling-Ellis, the stage and TV actor and model Tasha Ghouri, who has a cochlear implant, reported The Guardian.

Ghouri has been encouraging people to learn sign language and told The Guardian that people often feel uncomfortable trying to speak to others who are deaf or hearing impaired. That’s because, she said, “they don’t know how to communicate.”

One in five people in the UK are deaf or hearing impaired according to the RNID organization. It is estimated that 25,000 people use BSL as their main language. This includes at least 50,000 deaf children.

A 10-year campaign
One of the campaigners is Daniel Jillings who was 12 when he started a crowd justice campaign to allow British Sign Language (BSL) to be a core subject in school, reported the BBC.

Earlier in 2023, Jillings spoke to parliament about the importance of deaf awareness in schools. Teaching BSL in the schools will allow hearing students to learn and that will lead to more inclusivity. “This is a significant moment in the history of the British deaf community, as it is a powerful step to equality,” he said.

While it is too late for Daniel, who was born without a cochlea, so he cannot use hearing aids or cochlear implants and cannot speak, it is a welcome change for other students. The first GCSE courses are set to begin in 2025.

 Arran Masterman from the National Deaf Children's Society uses BSL as his first language, said that this is a big step forward and it could ensure that,“the deaf community, but especially deaf children and young people, don't get left behind.”

There are tangible  benefits for students. Education secretary Gillian Keegan said in a Gov UK press release, “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.” 

A challenge to teach BSL
There are around 3,500 secondary schools in England and giving them the resources to teach BSL is going to be a challenge, according to The Guardian. Signature, the leading body for deaf communication and language qualifications, has 1,220 teachers registered. But right now the level of qualification to teach the new courses has not been set.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders told The Guardian that schools had to recognize the practical constraints, “because schools are under tremendous pressure in terms of staffing, finances and time.”

With the start time a year and a half away, the planning to recruit BSL teachers should begin now  so that everything is in place for the start of the school year in 2025. Teaching BSL will enable deaf students to feel a greater sense of community and teach hearing students a valuable life skill.  

This Deaf High School Football Team is Inspirational!
This App Makes it Easy For People to Learn Sign Language
Innovation Enables Deaf People to ‘See’ Conversations