Two years after British Sign Language (BSL) became an official language in England and Wales, the preferred language among the deaf community in the UK will soon be taught as a GCSE. The subject content was finalised late last year (December 21), following a 12-week public consultation with parents, teachers and organisations within both deaf and hearing communities.
Open to all pupils, the BSL GCSE will teach students to communicate using BSL and provide an understanding of the history of BSL in the UK. Students will learn around 1,000 signs, helping them to communicate effectively with other signers in work, social and academic settings. It will be available to study as a GCSE in English schools from September 2025.
“It’s fantastic to see such an overwhelming amount of support across both the education sector and the deaf and hearing communities for this new GCSE,” said Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan. “Studying British Sign Language can open so many doors for young people, giving pupils an understanding of how thousands of people communicate and ultimately even expanding job prospects.”
Exam board syllabuses still need to be finalised, but these are expected to be approved by September 2025. Beyond just learning how to sign effectively and the history of sign language in the UK, the Government states further benefits to studying BSL. It will develop ways of “expressing and negotiating meaning through visual spatial language, communication and visual memory skills.”
“After more than a decade of campaigning for a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) we’re delighted we now have the finalised course content published,” said Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, Susan Daniels OBE. “A GCSE in BSL is vital as it will break down barriers and celebrate the rich culture and history of British Sign Language.”
BSL GCSE will be an internationally recognised qualification. It should enable students to understand and apply the principles of a visual spatial language; be able to use knowledge of grammar; understand BSL is a language with a distinct grammar; and demonstrate the use of BSL through communication and interaction. To see the full outline of the subject content head here.