Deaf young people to shape the future of BSL in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

A new Youth National Advisory Group (YNAG) is being set up in Scotland following the successful passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in October 2015.

The group will be made up of deaf young people who have BSL as their first or preferred language and who are passionate about the future of the language in Scotland.

NDCS, working in partnership with Deaf Action, will help organise and deliver the YNAG. It will offer young people a unique chance to develop new skills and have their views about BSL heard.

The YNAG will explore the issues that matter most to young people and together they will vote for two “champions” to represent the views of deaf young people on the main National Advisory Group. This means that young people will have an equal opportunity to advise Scottish Government and public bodies alongside parents, adults and Deafblind people.

To get involved in the group come along to the Information Day being held at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on 20 February between 10am and 3pm. Email to register a place. The event is free to attend and travel expenses will be paid.

Watch the FAQ video in BSL below:

YNAG pic

Join Scotland’s first British Sign Language National Advisory Group

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

After years of campaigning, the passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015) in September 2015 was a landmark moment in Deaf history in Scotland. As a result of the Act the Scottish Government and public bodies like the NHS are now required to develop British Sign Language (BSL) plans which outline how they will promote and raise awareness of the language.

The Act also requires a National Advisory Group (NAG) to be set up to represent the views of people with BSL as their first or preferred language. The NAG will have the important job of advising the Scottish Government and public bodies on what should be in their plans.

Here’s the top 6 things to know:

  1. Two spaces are reserved on the NAG for families of deaf child who have BSL as their first or preferred language, one of these spaces is for a hearing parent or carer;
  1. Two spaces are also reserved on the NAG for deaf young people aged 10 to 17 (or up to 20 if they have experience of care). However young people will follow a separate application process because a Youth NAG is also going to be set up. Information about this will launch in January;
  1. You do not need to have formal experience of advisory groups to get involved in the NAG, your life experience and ability to represent the views of others in similar circumstances to your own is what counts;
  1. You can submit your application in BSL or English. NDCS (or any other Deaf Sector Partnership organisation) can help you with your application, get in touch with with any questions;
  1. You can find the application and information pack on the Deaf Sector Partnership website – with full BSL versions. There is also lots of information on Facebook, search for the ‘British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015)’ group to join the discussion;
  1. The deadline for applications to the main NAG is 28 January 2016.

Getting to know GIRFEC in BSL

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Getting It Right For Every Child (aka GIRFEC) is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. But what does this mean?

To help explain, the ALLIANCE have created five new films on GIRFEC and what this means for children and young people in Scotland. What’s more, the videos are aimed at being as accessible to as many people as possible and are in British Sign Language.

We attended the launch event for the films on 4 November along with other third sector organisations, children, parents and professionals. Speaking at the event was the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, who highlighted that “the Scottish Government is committed to equality for disabled and deaf children in Scotland.”

It is hoped the films will raise awareness and understanding of GIRFEC for children and young people and their families/carers who use BSL. This is especially important because GIRFEC is due to become law in August 2016 through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

All of the films are available on the Alliance website here, or directly from YouTube here.

To find out more contact:

New legislation marks historic moment for deaf community in Scotland

Heather Gray

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland & Northern Ireland)

What does the newly passed British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill mean for deaf children and their families? Heather Gray, Director for NDCS Scotland and Northern Ireland blogged for Third Force News last week and shared her views…

The Scottish Parliament is to be congratulated on voting to pass the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill into law last week on Thursday 17 September 2015.

The passage of the Bill marks an historic moment for the entire deaf community across Scotland, many of whom have British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language.

By ensuring public authorities promote and raise awareness of BSL, the Bill –  the first of its kind in the UK – will help to embed the language more fully into Scottish society and culture.  And the provision for BSL users to be consulted on the development of public bodies’ BSL plans should stimulate real debate about how best to meet their needs.

The National Deaf Children’s Society hopes this ground-breaking legislation will become a foundation for the promotion of the language in Scotland long into the future. We strongly believe that if fully implemented the Bill will ultimately help create more choices and opportunities for deaf children and young people and help them achieve their full potential.

There are as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland. While there is a lack of national data about their language preferences, a survey of local authorities suggests around 15% use sign language in some way.

There can be real challenges in meeting the unique needs these deaf children and young people who use British Sign Language. With only around 80 qualified interpreters across Scotland and a lack of a robust qualifications framework, consistent access to high quality communication support can be challenging.

The Scottish Government is to be commended for its acknowledgement of these challenges in its support for the Bill and its investment in online translation service Contact Scotland. The challenge is now for them to set out an ambitious National Plan that will drive progress for deaf children and their families.

Deaf young people and their families have told us what they think should be in the National BSL Plan, including:

  • Closing the education attainment gap for deaf learners, as highlighted in the recent Inquiry undertaken by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee;
  • Establishing and regulating a qualifications framework for communication support in education;
  • Establishing BSL as an accredited school qualification within the modern languages curriculum, via the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework;
  • Improving the availability of early years support, so that deaf children have the best start in life.  This includes improving the availability of family Sign Language courses, which help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

Achieving real inclusion for the deaf community will take time, investment and strong national and local leadership. However, the BSL Bill is a welcome significant step forward in this journey. It provides us with an enabling framework that could ultimately lead to more effective service provision, better opportunities, and improved life chances for deaf children and young people across Scotland.


Date set for final vote on the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

We are excited to announce that the Stage 3 debate and final vote by MSPs on whether to pass the Bill is due to take place in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September. With the Bill on course to become law, here we provide a quick overview.

The Bill aims to raise awareness of BSL and improve access to services for those using the language. It does this by requiring the Scottish Government and other local bodies to publish and implement their own plans on how they will promote the use of the language. It can therefore be considered as an enabling framework to public authorities for the promotion of BSL within their services. The Bill does not outline specific provision authorities must provide. It does, however, set out principles which listed authorities must have regard to. These principles will be contained in the National Plan.

It is our recommendation that the National Plan has a strong focus on child-centred provision and early-intervention, to ensure deaf children are given the best start in life and are supported to reach their full potential. In particular, we recommend that the National Plan addresses:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap experienced by deaf learners;
  2. Minimum levels of qualification in BSL for education practitioners; to ensure deaf learners are supported by Communication Support Workers who are able to accurately interpret what the teacher is saying;
  3. BSL becoming an accredited school qualification and having the same status as other languages;
  4. Improving the availability of Family Sign Language and other family support;
  5. Ensuring aspirations of the Bill are appropriately resourced.

NDCS welcomes the Bill and believes that it could act as a critical step in strengthening the position of the language in Scotland. If passed, the Bill has the potential to support more deaf children and their families to access their right to the support they need.

Action: Does your MSP support the Bill? Email your MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of passing the Bill.

For more information contact:

Make it the law to close the gap

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

That is what the Scottish Government is aiming to do through their proposed Education (Scotland) Bill. The Bill contains fresh proposals that would require public authorities to report on how they are succeeding to close the education gap for the most disadvantaged young people.

The Scottish Government’s vision for children and young people is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and learn. The wide attainment gap that exists between those leaving school with the best and poorest outcomes undermines that vision. The Bill, along with the Government’s Attainment Challenge Fund work, aims to tackle this issue.

How do deaf children and young people stand to benefit? With the right support, deaf learners can achieve the same outcomes as their hearing peers of similar ability. Despite this, deaf learners are among the lowest attainment groups in Scotland. This has been acknowledged through the recent Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment.

However, the challenge lies in how the Bill defines “disadvantaged” and its focus on socioeconomic deprivation. Of course, there is a strong connection for all young people, including those who are deaf, between poverty and poorer educational outcomes.

However, poverty is not the only factor which can affect how well a deaf young person does at school. National and local investment into the things they might need at school: qualified interpreters, specialist teachers, good acoustics and effective technology, all have an important role to play. No matter how well off a family is, if something a deaf child needs is missing in their local community they won’t be supported to reach their full potential.

NDCS welcomes this ambitious new Bill, but we are calling on the Scottish Government to take the opportunity to address the multiple factors that cause attainment gaps, including Additional Support Needs. You can read our response to the committee here.

You can find out more about the Bill and follow its journey through Scottish Parliament here.

Closing the gap in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Last year NDCS published the Close the Gap report which highlighted the unacceptable education attainment gap which exists for deaf young people in Scotland. Data published in 2014 showed that almost 10% of deaf school leavers had no qualifications compared with just 1% of pupils with no Additional Support Needs. With the right support deaf young people can achieve just as much as their hearing peers. There is no reason why such a shocking statistic should be the reality facing as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland today.

A year on from our report’s publication the Scottish Parliament announced an Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment. This marks real progress and commitment from Scottish Parliament and Government towards closing the education gap for every child.

The Inquiry was solutions-focused and asked: what action can be taken to close the education attainment gap for sensory impaired pupils? Here are our views on what were the most important recommendations highlighted by the Inquiry:

1. Address the challenges affecting the specialist workforce for deaf learners including the consistency of qualifications Teachers of the Deaf have and their ageing profile.
2. Improve early intervention and support in the early years and establish Scottish Government early years standards that can inform care pathways and provision following newborn hearing screening diagnosis.
3. Improve data about deaf children so that local authorities can plan the services they need more effectively.
4. Ensure school buildings are meeting high quality acoustics standards – benefitting all learners, not just those are deaf.
5. Explore how we can use new technology to better support deaf learners, and in some cases centralise learning to offer deaf young people more opportunities and higher quality supports.
6. Support the confidence and resilience of deaf young people to help them prepare to succeed in whatever they do when they leave school.

The Education and Culture Committee are due to publish their Inquiry report in September, and NDCS will be responding to its recommendations then. Watch this space.

For more info contact: