In January there was quite a bit of press about a decision by the Government to allow BSL qualifications to be accepted as alternative to the English requirements for apprenticeships in England. This is something that the National Deaf Children’s Society campaigned for along with other deaf organisations.
Since the announcement in January, there have been quite a few questions asked about how the new policy will work. I am going to tell you what I know so far.
Why was this change made?
Currently, if you are taking an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in England you will need to pass English at Level 1 or 2 (functional skills or GCSE) to complete the apprenticeship. For some deaf people this makes completing an apprenticeship much more difficult. We believe it is also unfair for those who use BSL as their main language.
Who is eligible for this change?
People who are deaf and use BSL as their main language.
Which qualifications will be accepted?
For intermediate apprenticeships, the Level 1 certificate in BSL.
For advanced apprenticeships, the Level 2 certificate in BSL.
Can be the Signature, iBSL or ABC qualification.
Is the Level 1 or 2 certificate in BSL the appropriate qualification?
The Level 1 and 2 BSL qualifications are primarily aimed at beginners learning BSL. For a deaf first language BSL user and already fluent are they appropriate? Maybe not but what is the alternative? The Level 3 or 6 courses are much longer and there are fewer teachers. Ideally, we would have a functional skills BSL qualification which would allow BSL users to apply their BSL skills to workplace scenarios.
What if a deaf apprentice does not have a BSL qualification?
They can take the required qualification as part of their apprenticeship. Their training provider will receive the same funding as they receive for providing English tuition. For most people this will just mean taking the Level 1 or 2 BSL assessments with a bit of coaching beforehand.
When does the new policy start?
There is a change in apprenticeship regulations required which is a legal change. The Government expects to do this this April. Fingers crossed.
What about those who do not use BSL?
Some who are oral will find it difficult to pass English and Maths functional skills qualifications for the same reasons as BSL users- delayed language development impacts reading and writing skills. The Government plans to set up a pilot where apprentices with disabilities that impact on learning can work towards functional skills qualification at a level appropriate for them. We don’t know when this will happen or how big the pilot will be.