Government to discourage teaching of sign language in primary schools?

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I’ve blogged about some of my ‘official’ work on the Children, Schools and Families Bill. But I’ve also been doing some extra-curricular ‘unofficial’ lobbying work behind the scenes, trying to get clarification on something quite worrying…

In a nutshell, the Bill proposes a new law whereby schools will have to teach primary school children a language. Looking at the small-print, this is defined in the Bill as a “modern foreign language” and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) will decide later what languages schools will be able to offer in meeting this requirement.

Alarms bell rang when I read this because British Sign Language is, by definition, not a ‘foreign’ language. It’s an official Government bells-on recognised language in this country. So I emailed the civil servants working on the Bill to get to the bottom of this.

The answer? Not good. Schools will not be able to teach British Sign Language and meet this new primary school languages requirement. I was told that there would be nothing to stop them teaching it as a separate subject if they wanted to. But the signal sent to schools will be quite clear – British Sign Language, which is the first language of around 70,000 people in this country, does not have the same status as languages like French or Mandarin in our schools.

I don’t know about you but as a deaf person, I’m quite offended by that.

Malcolm Bruce MP (who signs himself) has written to DCSF for an explanation. Hopefully, this will prompt the Government to think again…

I’ll blog again soon with more news, but leave a comment below if you’re as offended as I am, or have any other thoughts.


Primary curriculum review fails deaf children?

Sir Jim Rose’s review of the primary curriculum was published yesterday. It promises fairly fundamental changes to the way young children learn at schools. And with one in five children having a special educational need, surely the report will have lots to say about how such children can learn effectively in the classroom?

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

It was painfully depressing and tiresome and predictable. There was nothing in the main report’s recommendations about meeting the needs of children with special educational needs. There was a brief mention later where it said that the teaching of phonics might not work for a “minority” of children and that teachers should seek specialist advice. Note that the onus is on teachers to do this, not on the Government to provide advice and support. And frustratingly, it refers to feedback from parents of “mixed experiences” in schools meeting their child’s needs, but then does nothing to really address this.

NDCS did a press story on this and we’re likely to be banging on about this until we get a government commitment that the curriculum must be accessible to all children, and that guidance must be made available on how to do this for deaf children. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that teachers are expected to tailor their teaching on literacy, emotional well-being and languages with nothing in the way of guidance and support.