UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


GCSE in British Sign Language

21 December 2023

The Department for Education has today (21 December 2023) announced the publication of the subject content for the new GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). This is a landmark moment one year after the 2022 BSL Act, and has come about as a result of active campaigning by the Deaf community, and in particular, by Daniel Jillings, a deaf student.

Professor Bencie Woll MBE, founder of the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre in PALS at UCL, together with Dr Robert Adam (formerly of DCAL) and Bernardette Holmes MBE (Honorary Professor at the Institute of Education, UCL) have served since 2019 as consultants to the DfE for the development of the GCSE in BSL.

The GCSE is designed as a language option for both hearing and deaf students in England. The very large and positive response to the consultation documents indicates that it will be a highly popular option.

Professor Woll said “The introduction of the GCSE in BSL is a milestone in the recognition of BSL and its status in the UK today. The opportunity to study BSL for qualifications at school open up new language learning opportunities and provides both deaf and hearing students with expanded career opportunities.”

Professor Kearsy Cormier, Director of DCAL, said “A GCSE in BSL is a long time in coming and a very welcome addition to other language GCSEs, allowing teenagers to gain skills and qualifications in BSL. This also opens opportunities for deaf people wishing to become BSL teachers. We at DCAL are hoping to offer BSL teacher training to meet this new increased demand.”

The next steps are for Ofqual to finalise their work around assessment, and for an exam board to accredit the course, with the aim of offering it for the first time in Autumn 2025.

The published subject content is available online as well as a response to the 12-week consultation about the content earlier this year. 

For further information contact dcal@ucl.ac.uk.