GCSE in British Sign Language may be introduced following a 12-year-old boy’s campaign
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A 12-year-old deaf schoolboy from Suffolk, Daniel Jillings, has influenced the British government’s decision to consider introducing a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). Despite previous statements in parliament that no new GCSEs will be introduced, ministers have now said exception may be made for BSL. The change in direction comes after Daniel and his family campaigned to instate a GCSE in BSL before the schoolboy sits his GCSE exams. In March, School Standards Minister Nick Gibb announced: “We value British Sign Language, however a huge number of steps would have to be gone through for the BSL qualification to be accredited as a GCSE.”
A crowdfunding page set up to assist the families legal battle to challenge the government ruling has raised over £6,000.
“My first language is BSL and I want the chance to do this as a GCSE subject when I take my other exams. Delaying a GCSE is unfair to children who are deaf," Daniel writes on the online page. Daniel’s lawyers were arguing that having no BSL GCSE Level is “discriminatory and unlawful” since it represents his, and many other deaf students, first language. Providing these expectations are met, Mr. Gibb has said “we will then consider whether to make an exception to our general rule that there should be no new GCSEs in this parliament.” Ann Jillings, Daniel’s mother, said: ‘All we want for Daniel and other deaf children across the country to be given the same opportunities as other pupils.’ Steve Haines, representative of the National Deaf Children’s Society has joined lawyers to announce that the reversal represents a major turning point and “powerful signal to deaf children everywhere.” According to Mr. Haines, there are approximately 45,000 deaf children studying in the UK who support the introduction of a GCSE in BSL. The responsibility now lies with Ofqual to help develop a BSL GCSE in time for Daniel’s exams.