Boost for deaf child’s fight for sign language GCSE in schools

Daniel Jillings. Picture: Ann Jillings

Daniel Jillings. Picture: Ann Jillings - Credit: Archant

The battle being fought by a Waveney school boy for a sign language GCSE in schools has been given a boost after the government said they would consider introducing the qualification.

Daniel Jillings. Picture: Ann Jillings

Daniel Jillings. Picture: Ann Jillings - Credit: Archant

Daniel Jillings, 12, from Lowestoft, is profoundly deaf and a pupil at Bungay High School. He had launched a legal campaign with his family against the government's decision.

There is no current British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE and the government had said there was to be no changes to the curriculum until the next parliament due to the need for a 'period of stability', with Daniel likely to then be too old to sit the qualification.

However, following a submission from the family's legal team at Irwin Mitchell, the government has said it will now consider making an exception to its rule and bring in a BSL GCSE in this parliament.

In a letter from education secretary Damian Hinds, he says he would 'consider whether to make an exception to his general policy of not introducing new GCSEs in the interests of stability for schools and teachers, in respect of BSL only'.

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Daniel's mother, Ann Jillings, who has campaigned on issues affecting deaf children for years, said: 'We are not asking for any special treatment, all we want is for Daniel and other deaf children across the country to be given the same opportunities as other pupils. We are so pleased that the government finally appears to be recognising how big an issue this is an the announcement is another hurdle cleared.

'However, it is now important that the Department for Education acts on its pledge and works with families and sign language charities to develop a BSL GCSE so this issue can be resolved once and for all.'

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Steve Haines, director of policy and campaigns at the National Deaf Children's Society, said: 'By no longer blocking the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language in this parliament, the government is sending a powerful signal to deaf children everywhere. For so many of these children, being able to learn their first language at school is a vital move towards genuine equality.

'The Department for Education and the exam regulator Ofqual must to do everything they can to work with exam bodies to develop this GCSE as soon as possible. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.'

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