DfE wants British sign language GCSE 'as soon as possible'

Ministers are aiming to introduce a British sign language GCSE “as soon as possible” – and have pledged to consult on draft content next year.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, has confirmed Department for Education officials are now “working with subject experts to develop draft subject content” for the GCSE.

The government relaxed its position on the creation of a BSL GCSE in 2018 following threats of a legal challenge by the family of a 12-year-old deaf pupil.

Last May, Gibb said the government was “open to considering” a BSL GCSE “for possible introduction in the longer term”, but insisted there were no plans to do so until after the next election, at that point scheduled for 2022, “to allow schools a period of stability”.

But in August last year, Gibb said the government could make “an exception” to its moratorium on new qualifications.

Now, with a general election expected in the coming months, Gibb has given the strongest signal yet that the new qualification could become a reality.

“The government 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,” he said in an answer to a Parliamentary written question.

“We are currently working with subject experts to develop draft subject content.

“The department will be working with Ofqual to ensure that the subject content can be assessed appropriately and will be working with stakeholders to ensure a wide range of views are reflected.

“We are aiming to consult publicly on draft content next year. Once final subject content has been published, it will be a matter for individual awarding organisations to decide whether to develop a specification and have this accredited by Ofqual.”

The government’s change of heart last year was prompted in-part by a campaign launched by the family of 12-year-old Daniel Jillings.

Daniel’s family, from Lowestoft in Suffolk, raised thousands of pounds through an online crowdfunding appeal after they decided to fight for his right to take the exam with his other GCSEs in less than four years’ time.

Gibb has previously warned that a “huge number of steps would have to be gone through” in order to gain GCSE accreditation for the current BSL qualifications.