Should British Sign Language Be Compulsory in Schools?

With data published by the Department for Education showing that at GCSE level deaf children are now falling behind, Should British Sign Language be compulsory in all schools to make sure all students get the best education available? Katherine Simmons investigates.

The data showed that deaf children are now falling 24% behind their classmates and are achieving more than a whole grade less at GCSE. As well as that 71% of deaf children do not achieve a good GCSE in English and Maths.

Is this because Deaf children are not getting support the correct support whilst at school?

Government Cuts to deaf support

Commenting on the new government data, Ian Noon, Head of Policy and research at the National Deaf Children’s Society, “Deaf children are continuing to fall behind their hearing peers, the attainment gap continues to widen, cuts to services are continuing up and down the country, and the Government continues to have absolutely no plan in place to sort this mess out.”

Researched published on the 8th January 2018 by the Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (CRIDE) showed that in the last 7 years, despite a 31% increase in the number of deaf children that councils have a legal duty to assess and provide support for, the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf has been cut by 14%.

Emma Fraser, who has worked as a specialist Teacher of the Deaf said in a statement, “Deafness is not a learning disability, and with the right support, deaf children can absolutely do just as well as any other child at school.

“It’s so upsetting to see deaf children carry on falling behind. We need action now. Anything less is unacceptable.”


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Susan Daniels, the chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We already have too few specialist Teachers of the Deaf across England, but with 60% due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, the Government’s current complacency is a complete dereliction of duty.”

“I’m profoundly deaf and know all too well the challenges of growing up without support. It means struggling to communicate, falling behind at school, failing to achieve your potential. Despite deafness not being a learning disability, deaf children fall a whole grade behind their hearing friends at school. This is only going to get worse if the Government doesn’t intervene.”

Isolation of the deaf community

Due to a language barrier, the deaf community can seem isolated with difficulty talking to hearing people have a conversation or order.

Teacher of the Deaf, Andrea Kite, said “There are two schools of thought. A deaf person brought up in a deaf community, may not want to communicate with the hearing world.

However, yes it can isolate people, it would be like if someone spoke a different language. They also miss out on stuff, they don’t understand certain things. A different sense of humour, a different outlook, a very black and white outlook.”

On talking about learning British Sign Language Mrs Kite said, “The basics are quite easy to learn. Areas past basic survival require exams as it becomes more and more complicated. at it’s the highest level, level 6, you can interpret for the police or tv, I myself am a pre-level 3, however, I learnt most of my stuff from the kids I worked with 30 years ago.

“I enjoy teaching and practising BSL. I am very passionate about making sure that the young people I work with have the same opportunities as everyone else. It’s a unique skill I feel lucky to do.”

On the topic of should British Sign Language be taught in schools, Mrs Kite said, “Absolutely! Especially with the idea that all children need to be integrated into mainstream schools. It’s all about inclusion.”

Is now the time that these two different communities can be integrated through learning and breaking down communication barriers? That is for the government to decide.

If you would like to find out more about British Sign Language or want to learn the language please go to:

National Deaf Children’s Society

British Deaf Association

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