View from the House: Why more schools should teach BSL

PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 March 2018


March 18 was the 15th anniversary since British Sign Language (BSL) was given official recognition under the last Labour government.

I marked this occasion with great pride, as it gave deaf people the basic recognition they deserve.

I was honoured to become the first ever MP to ask a question using BSL last year. As an ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club, this is an issue close to my heart.

It is estimated that there are about nine million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing and they deserve more support. I have always said that equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose. Fighting for the rights of one group does not take away from the rights of others.

While the government failed to act, the 2017 Labour manifesto contained a commitment to introduce a BSL Act in Parliament and give it full legal status.

It is a shame that the government failed to accept BSL as a GCSE qualification as I have seen first-hand the difference learning it can make with St Michael’s Nursery in Brent teaching their children sign language. I hope more schools can follow their example – there are an estimated 259 deaf children in Brent after all.

I hope people across the country will join us in calling for a BSL Act to enshrine the rights of BSL users into law, and join in raising awareness of the importance of BSL in our society.

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