Right to Sign – update on BSL GCSE campaign

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

There’s been another breakthrough in the Right to Sign campaign, and it’s all thanks to two of our amazing campaigners.

Back in June, we explained that the Department for Education in England had done a U-turn and would now allow a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). However, they also said that there could not be any new GCSEs in this Parliament. In theory, this meant that there could be no BSL GCSE before 2022.

Daniel Jillings, a 12 year old deaf young person, decided to take legal action, with support from his Mum, Ann Jillings. His solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, argued that a blanket policy of no new GCSEs was discriminatory, especially to young people like him for whom any new GCSE in BSL would come too late if it couldn’t be introduced before 2022.

In response, the Department has conceded that it will make an exception for a BSL GCSE and that it can now be introduced before 2022. This is great news, and we would like to pay tribute to Daniel and Ann for sticking to their guns and challenging the Department on this.

In terms of what happens next, any exam body, such as Signature, will still need to meet the requirements set by the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual. It’s important that any GCSE is of the highest standard and has the same credibility as other GCSEs. We’re calling on the Department to do everything it can to support and expedite progress, so that a new GCSE is ready to go as soon as possible so that young people like Daniel can benefit from it. We want to see evidence they’re taking a ‘can-do’ attitude towards making a BSL GCSE a reality.

Much will now depend on the progress that the Department, Ofqual and exam bodies like Signature make and it’s still too early to say how any new BSL GCSE will work in practice. However, the Department’s announcement is a big step forward and we can now be more optimistic that change will come sooner rather than later.

More information about Signature’s work in this area can be found on their website. Keep an eye on our campaigns blog as well for more updates.

The trouble with frameworks

Martin-Mclean-cropped

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Last week the BSL interpreter’s union, NUBSLI, released a hard-hitting report criticising the Government use of national frameworks for public services buying in BSL interpreting support.

What is meant by a framework? (One of these terms loved by policy-makers but which probably means little to most ordinary people). In this situation, it is basically a set of conditions or rules that have to be followed by public bodies when buying in services. Governments like them because it allows them to control costs and quality.

So what is the problem? NUBSLI claims that the national frameworks for interpreting services being used by the NHS, courts, police and social services are damaging because it leads to contracts being awarded to a limited number of agencies. The agencies will gain contracts on the basis of delivering the required ‘quality’ for the lowest price. NUBSLI reports that there are a number of problems with this, including:

  • Having services provided by one large agency reduces choice for deaf people. They may not be able to use their preferred interpreter and cannot change the agency provided.

 

  • There is a downwards pressure on interpreter fees and their terms and conditions which threatens to make their work unsustainable.

 

  • Inexperienced interpreters are being used for very critical situations such as court cases or child protection meetings.

In 2016 the Government introduced a Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) for support funded through Disabled Student Allowances for students from England. It was not mentioned within NUBSLI’s report but there are some similarities. The QAF requires providers of support to pay to sign up to a register and agree to a number of terms and conditions. BSL interpreters have raised concerns about the QAF too because the administrative requirements of the framework discourage freelancers from registering.

We like quality assurance but our concern is that the way this system is set up can reduce choice for students. When I took my Masters degree in 2013 I was able to provide a list of preferred interpreters to my university’s Disability Advisor. This could no longer happen under the QAF. The fear is that more experienced interpreters (and other types of support workers) who will have a strong client base will decline to work in higher education due to unfavourable terms and conditions.

Are we therefore campaigning on this issue? Whilst some reservations have been expressed with civil servants, we have not been vocal about the QAF. This is because we lack evidence from deaf students themselves that they are receiving poor quality support. It is crucial for us to have evidence of a problem if we are going to be taken seriously by the Government.

If you are a higher education student not happy with the support you are getting through Disabled Student Allowances, please let us know by contacting our helpline. The same goes for anyone receiving support through the frameworks mentioned in NUBSLI’s report. Don’t suffer in silence – your case studies are really valuable for our work!

Daniel’s Vlog – My Meeting with Nick Gibb

Hi, my name is Daniel and I’m a campaigner. I recently went to the Houses of Parliament in London to meet with the Minister for Schools Standards at the Department for Education, Nick Gibb MP. I asked to meet him because there still isn’t a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). This is really unfair to all children who use BSL as their first language. Have a look at my vlog to learn all about my day and my chat with Nick Gibb!

(This video is in BSL with subtitles)

 

 

https://e-activist.com/page/21204/action/1

My experience of Labour party conference…

Erin 1

Erin McKay

Hello, I am Erin and I’m from Wiltshire. I have a hearing loss and wear two hearing aids. I am currently doing A Level History, Philosophy and English Literature. I attended the Labour Party Conference and I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience.

On Sunday 24 September I got on the train to Brighton. It took a little under four hours to get there. I was on my way to the Labour Party conference where I had 8 meetings lined up to talk about three campaigns that the NDCS are doing. They are Listen Up to improve children’s audiology services, Right to Sign, putting British Sign Language (BSL) in schools as a GCSE and PIP’d Off, about Personal Independence Payments, and the difficulties that deaf people have in getting them. I talked about the Right to Sign campaign as it was the one I helped create with the last Youth Advisory Board.

On the Monday, Brighton was quite rainy and we arrived at the hotel at around 10am to get ready for our first meeting, it was with Sharon Hodgson, the MP for Sunderland West. She is the Shadow Minister for Public Health. She was really nice and we talked about Listen Up, Right to Sign and PIP.

Erin and Sharon

While we were talking with her, the next MP arrived – Alex Cunningham of Stockton. He was also really nice. He gave us some ideas of what to do with the campaigns and who to talk to about different bits. He agreed to ask his local hospital to sign up to the inspections for Listen Up!

Our next meeting was with Liz Twist who is the new MP for Blaydon. We talked about Listen Up! and Right to Sign. Afterwards we met Stephanie Peacock who is also a new MP, for Barnsley. She agreed to ask her local hospital to be part of the inspection process and we also talked about Right to Sign and having Teachers of the Deaf in Schools. We then had a break for lunch and walked around the exhibitions.

After lunch, we saw Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. I managed to get my picture taken with both of them. Our next meeting was with Dawn Butler, the MP who signed a question in parliament. We talked to her about Right to Sign, and she seemed surprised to see that I couldn’t sign. She had already done most of what we wanted to ask her to do, and she was happy to talk about other things to help our campaigns. Next was Helen Goodman who had done a lot of work already with the National Deaf Children’s Society and she was very happy to help us. We talked about Right to Sign, Listen Up and PIP.

Erin labour

Our last meeting was with Tracy Brabin, who was friends with Jo Cox, who I wrote a bit about loneliness for. We also talked about Listen Up and Right to Sign. I had a really good time and would like to do it again.

The best bit of my day was seeing the taxi drivers showing their support for the Uber ban in London by beeping their horns. It went on for about 20 minutes and was really loud! I also liked meeting all the different MPs. Top tips from me for conference are: to share – talk to the MPs and ask questions if you don’t understand something; they are ordinary people.

Right to Sign campaign update: Minister says no

Ian_Noon

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

Earlier this year, the National Deaf Children’s Society Youth Advisory Board, after months of hard work, launched their new Right to Sign campaign, calling for young people to have more opportunities for young people to learn sign language in schools.

They surveyed over 2,000 young people – deaf and hearing – and found that a whopping 92% thought schools should offer British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE. They published a report setting out the results in full and the case for action.

And the response from the Government? No.

Yesterday, when asked if the Department for Education in England would encourage exam boards to offer BSL as a GCSE, the Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “At present, there are no plans to introduce any further GCSEs beyond those to which the Government has already committed.”

To our knowledge, this is the first time the Government has ruled out introducing a BSL GCSE since the campaign was launched. It’s a massive disappointment and a real slap in the face for all of the hard work done so far by the Youth Advisory Board.

It’s hard not to feel angry about the response. It’s simply unfair and unjust that BSL, an official language in the UK used by thousands of people, is being treated in a way which implies it has a lower status and importance than other languages already being taught as GCSEs. It could even be seen as discriminatory to deaf people.

We’re not going to be deterred and will keep pressing the Department for Education in England for action – our briefing sets out some of the arguments we’re using. Two members of the Youth Advisory Board will also be asking MPs to support their campaign when they head to party political conferences later this month.

If you want to show your support for our work, please sign the Youth Advisory Board petition. More information about the different ways you can support the campaign can be found on the Buzz website.