British Sign Language: new opportunities through the Curriculum for Wales

Read this page in Welsh

The Curriculum for Wales is designed to offer teachers flexibility and agency within a national framework; it sets out that all children should have a broad and balanced education, and make continued progress from age 3 to 16.

As part of the new curriculum, British Sign Language (BSL) can be taught as a third or subsequent language, like French or German. This means that BSL could form part of a school’s curriculum for all children, as well as BSL provision for deaf and hard of hearing children.

While this new status in the curriculum is a positive development, the group leading on the Languages, Literacy and Communication (LLC) Area of Learning and Experience (Area) recommended that additional guidance be developed to help schools include BSL in their curriculum design.

In March this year, before everything was turned on its head by the global pandemic, a group with expertise and experience in teaching BSL started work on that guidance. It is being developed both for BSL as a first or main language for deaf and hard of hearing children, and for BSL as a third language or subsequent language, as part of the LLC Area alongside Welsh, English and other languages.

Despite the challenges of working remotely, the dedicated members of the BSL guidance development group have continued their work through virtual workshops, and draft guidance will be published for feedback in 2021. The work has been supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and the Centre of Sign, Sight, Sound (COS). Professor Bencie Woll and Dr Kate Rowley from University College London’s Deafness Cognition and Language Centre (DCAL) have also written a paper to inform the group’s work.

The draft guidance will show how BSL can contribute to learners’ development towards all four purposes of the curriculum. It can, for example, encourage learners to step beyond familiar cultural boundaries and develop new ways of expressing and negotiating meaning in an inclusive deaf and hearing global society, addressing issues such as disability rights, minority languages, recognition of BSL and communication through technology. The additional guidance offers an opportunity to develop provision in the context of wider education reforms in Wales, such as equity, well-being, teaching and leadership. The BSL guidance development group feels it is important that the issues of learning and teaching BSL are considered across all aspects of educational reform in Wales and at all levels. Deaf children in Wales must have the opportunity to become ambitious, capable learners; enterprising, creative contributors; healthy confident individuals, and ethical, informed citizens.

– Many thanks to Molly and the National Deaf Children’s Society for producing the video above!

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