New National BSL Plan includes 16 out of our 28 recommendations

Across our two reports: The impact of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 on deaf educationpublished in 2021 and Deaf Education in Scotland and Wales: Attitudes to British Sign Language in deaf education compared to Gaelic and Welsh published in 2022, we made a total of 28 recommendations.

The two reports put forward a total of 28 recommendations were made for the Welsh and Scottish Governments and other stakeholders to consider.  Focusing on Scotland, the first report proposed the initiating of a national debate regarding language attitudes, updating BSL plan templates for local authorities, colleges and universities, and involving deaf people, parents of deaf children, and teachers in planning processes. We highlighted the need for open communication and accountability for organisations receiving government funding for the implementation of the National BSL Plan to enhance transparency. We also urged the General Teaching Council of Scotland to learn from the Deaf Teachers Group and advocated for half of Teachers of Deaf Children and Young People (ToDs) to attain SCQF BSL 6 proficiency within three years.

Our recommendations in the second report concentrated on promoting BSL and language pedagogies (that is, bilingualism and immersion education) for deaf children in Wales and Scotland. We suggested BSL awareness training for health professionals such as midwives, health visitors, audiologists and consultants and creating a new profession of BSL Therapists to assist deaf children and providing funding for BSL learning in early years childcare settings. In relation to BSL teachers, the Scottish and Welsh Governments should undertake a mapping exercise to ascertain numbers and level of skills, expand language courses at degree level to increase BSL fluency, and provide resources to support these courses. Until similar provisions are made in Wales, the Welsh Government should also fund student placements for Primary Education with BSL at the University of Edinburgh.  Additionally, it was proposed that language provision networks for Welsh, Gaelic, and BSL collaborate on common issues. More opportunities for language teachers should be provided to qualify as ToDs and the governments should extend existing provision to offer language sabbaticals for ToDs to learn BSL.  The Scottish Government was also encouraged to incorporate these recommendations into the second National BSL Plan.

On 7 July 2023, the Scottish Government’s British Sign Language (BSL) opened the BSL National Plan 2023-2029 consultation. The consultation period will run until Sunday 3 September 2023. The Government plans to publish the BSL National Plan 2023-2029 by 31 October 2023.

We are pleased to see the draft BSL National Plan includes 16 out of our 28 recommendations.

In relation to the BSL plans of national public authorities and local authorities and how they draw them up, the Scottish Government proposes to establish sustainable approaches in the development and implementation of these BSL plans, ensuring that cost-effective work is taking place proportionately within their authorities to help their BSL plans target issues more effectively (Action 14).  They also plan to develop guidance on BSL access for public engagement (Action 16).

The Scottish Government also recognises that more work needs to be done in order to shift language attitudes towards BSL and aim to develop a classification framework around BSL and create guidance to provide more consistency in approaches to BSL (Action 14).

In relation to early years and language acquisition, the Scottish Government proposes to investigate and explore an early intervention model for sign language acquisition for deaf and deafblind new-borns and children to ensure they and their families have access to both BSL and English (Action 1), and to investigate the provisions of support for deaf and deafblind children within Scotland to identify gaps in support to inform an immediate remedial action plan (Action 2).  They will also establish a BSL Education Advisory Group (Action 5).

Notably, the Scottish Government has gone further with our recommendation that half the ToDs in each local authority should have SCQF BSL 6 within three years and have said that they will investigate opportunities for ToDs to obtain qualifications for BSL up to SCQF Level 10 (Action 7).

The Scottish Government will also develop an Implementation Working Group for the BSL National Plan, with the aim of regularly reviewing the National Plan’s commitments to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the BSL communities in Scotland throughout the lifetime of the Plan (Action 20).

Finally, recognising the need for accurate data, the new National Plan proposes to develop a new BSL Data Strategy to establish how to gather relevant data and evidence and distribute accordingly (Action 13), which will assist in the mapping exercise to establish the number of BSL teachers currently practising in Scotland and identify skills gaps.  There will also be a BSL Workforce Strategy to consider pathways including, and not limited to, BSL/English interpreting and BSL tutors/teachers (Action 12).

If you would like to respond to the consultation, you can do so online at:  If you would prefer to submit a video in BSL, send your YouTube or Vimeo links via email to

Deaf Education in Scotland and Wales

We conducted a review of the impact of the Scottish national BSL plan on deaf education, in particular its issues, failures and successes, during Phase 1 of this project.

We are now delighted to announce that Phase 2 of this project has now been completed, and we have published a report together with a summary which is available in English, BSL, Welsh and Gaelic. Phase 2 would not have happened without the £4,418 awarded to Rob Wilks by the University of South Wales’ Faculty of Creative Industries Early Career Researchers Pump Prime Funding scheme.  We are grateful to them for this opportunity.

The purpose of the Phase 2 report was to ascertain whether there is an appetite at government or local authority level for deaf children to be educated in either BSL-medium or bilingual schools in Scotland and Wales, which have Welsh- and Gaelic-medium education provision respectively.  Nineteen interviews with a total of 21 participants were carried out with Scottish and Welsh Government civil servants, national public body representatives, council officials, college and university representatives, families of deaf children, Teachers of the Deaf and third sector employees.

Views on BSL

There were marked differences in the conceptualisation of BSL as a language between top-, mid- and low-level, with the top-level tending to veer towards BSL as a communication tool and having a greater awareness of language policy and the right to language.  At the mid- and low-level, there was however, a tendency to frame deaf children according to their audiological status, and that even though health – more specifically audiology – is outside education, it clearly exerts a huge force over the work of Teachers of the Deaf which would explain their attitudes towards BSL.  Gaps in early years provision for deaf children also emerged as an important theme, with recognition that it is this period that is vital for language acquisition.  The final theme identified through the interview stage was the availability or scarcity of resources in both Wales and Scotland for the teaching of BSL and in deaf education.

We have made 14 recommendations grouped under five headings: early years, language pedagogies, BSL teachers, Teachers of the Deaf and language policy.  These include developing a new profession of BSL therapists to support efforts to develop BSL in deaf children in early years, the development of language pedagogies courses, the commissioning of mapping exercise of BSL teachers, the expansion of undergraduate and postgraduate courses to provide opportunities to develop fluency in BSL, initial teaching training courses that incorporate BSL, and training for qualified teachers, supplementary resources and language sabbaticals for qualified teachers and Teachers of the Deaf.

The summary report is available in BSL, Gaelic, Welsh and PDF.  The full report can be found here.

The next steps in this project are to publish our findings in journals and to organise a UK-wide deaf education conference in 2023 or 2024 to which stakeholders at all levels should be invited to disseminate knowledge, language pedagogy and best practices.

Funding confirmed for Phase 2

We are delighted to announce that a total of £4,418 has been awarded to Rob Wilks by the University of South Wales’ Faculty of Creative Industries Early Career Researchers Pump Prime Funding scheme, which aims to support faculty researchers across career stages and across a range of the Faculty’s (inter)disciplinary areas.  The funds will cover the costs for phase 2 of the Deaf Education in Scotland and Wales research project: Deaf Education and the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015: comparisons with the Welsh approach.

In November 2021, Rachel O’Neill and Rob Wilks published the first independent impact study of the BSL (Scotland) Act, The impact of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 on deaf education, to act as a discussion point for parents, teachers, organisations and deaf young people themselves about what changes the Act has so far made in relation to their education.  The report made 14 recommendations for key stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Act including a public debate regarding language acquisition and binary attitudes, engagement with families of deaf children and young deaf people, transparency in relation to the funding of third sector organisations, an increase in the availability of BSL courses and an improvement in providing BSL content on websites.

A number of themes were identified that require further examination during the production of this report:

  • The conceptualisation of BSL as a language;
  • The extent to which attitudes towards deaf children as being either ‘BSL pupils,’ ‘other deaf children’ and/or disabled persist;
  • Internal and external factors in how the first BSL plans were drawn up; and
  • The role of the third sector in implementing the BSL Act and how they are funded.


Phase 2 aims to explore these themes in further depth in order to provide more context and understanding of the issues affecting the implementation of the Act’s first national BSL plan in relation to deaf education.  In the process, comparisons of the Scottish approach will be undertaken with Wales.  Of interest is the contrast between the two nations and particularly the role of the respective education systems in supporting BSL. In Scotland, the push has been to explore how hearing children can be encouraged to learn BSL (as opposed to deaf children learning BSL). In contrast, without a BSL Act in Wales, the focus has been to include BSL in the national curriculum which includes deaf children.

For the Welsh element, a literature review will initially be undertaken.  25 interviews will then be carried out with Scottish and Welsh Government civil servants, national public body representatives, council officials, college and university representatives, families of deaf children, young deaf people, Teachers of the Deaf and third sector employees.  We then plan to produce a report and a report summary translated into BSL and Welsh, which will be made available on this website.