The Government is committed to supporting the parents of deaf children and children with hearing loss to learn British Sign Language (BSL) and other forms of non-verbal communication.
Funding is available through the Adult Education Budget (AEB) for qualifications in or focussing on BSL up to and including Level 2. These qualifications include, for example, the Level 1 Award in BSL which allows learners to communicate in BSL on a range of topics that involve simple, everyday language use, thereby giving them the basic skills and confidence in production and reception of BSL.
About 60 per cent of the AEB has been devolved to Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority, who determine which provision to fund for learners who live in their areas. The Education and Skills Funding Agency provides the remaining funding for learners who live in non-devolved areas. Where community learning providers offer BSL courses, those providers are responsible for determining the course fees, including levels of fee remission.
For some BSL courses, Adult Learner Loans (ALLs) are available, and parents can find more information about which qualifications are eligible on the GOV.UK website at: https://www.qualifications.education.gov.uk/Search. More general information about the provision of ALLs is available on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/advanced-learner-loan.
For parents learning BSL on an AEB funded course, there is additional support available. The AEB provides funding to colleges and providers to help adult learners overcome barriers to accessing learning. Providers have discretion to help learners meet costs such as transport, accommodation, books, equipment, and childcare. Learning support funding also helps colleges and training providers to meet the additional needs of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities and the costs of reasonable adjustments as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
More broadly, the Department for Education is committed to ensuring that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including those who use BSL, receive the support they need to achieve in their early years, at school, and in further education settings. This is why every local authority provides specialist support services for hearing impaired children. It is also why there are legal duties on a local authority to keep under review the educational, training, and social care provision made for children and young people who have SEND.
In March this year, the Government published its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan. The Improvement Plan sets out that the Government will establish a single national system that delivers for every child and young person with special educational needs and disabilities from birth to age 25 so that they enjoy their childhood, achieve good outcomes, and are well prepared for their next step, whether that’s employment, higher education or adult services. The plan included a number of commitments to train teachers of children and young people with sensory impairments.
As part of this, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) is developing an apprenticeship for teachers of sensory impairment. They are working with universities, local authorities and sector representatives, including the National Deaf Children’s Society, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the British Association of Teachers of Deaf Children and Young People to develop the qualification. Subject to approval by IfATE, the apprenticeship will be published this year and will be delivered in 2025, allowing for providers to prepare the courses for delivery.