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British Sign Language

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action he is taking to address the implications for schools and colleges of the decision to reorganise British Sign Language, with particular reference to (a) teacher supply, (b) validation and (c) funding issues. [112849]

While the Government has recognised British Sign Language as a language in its own right, we remain committed to preserving diversity and choice in relation to the different communication methods available for deaf and hearing impaired people. Children with hearing difficulties will continue to be taught in accordance with their and their parents' preferred style. Under the terms of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, it is now unlawful for schools and further and higher education institutions to discriminate against disabled learners by treating them less favourably than others. In addition, institutions have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to provision where people with disabilities might otherwise be substantially disadvantaged. The Government does not expect the statement of recognition to have any new implications for schools and colleges in relation to teacher supply, interaction between deaf children and others, or funding. We shall however be keeping all these issues under close review.The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is providing £1 million to fund a discrete programme of initiatives to support the Government's statement of recognition. The DWP will shortly be consulting organisations of and for deaf people about how this funding should be allocated.