British Sign Language ‘should be first language of deaf children in Wales’

British Sign Language (BSL) should be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales, a committee has recommended.

The National Assembly’s Petitions Committee examined a petition by Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in the country.

Figures by the National Deaf Children’s Society put the number of deaf children in Wales at 2,642, while Welsh Government figures show there are 3,116 pupils with hearing impairments in Welsh schools.

BSL is currently recognised as a minority language by the Welsh Government.

It will now examine the report by the Petitions Committee, which calls for BSL to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children and young people.

The committee has also asked the Welsh Government to further consider creating a GCSE in first-language sign language with Qualifications Wales.

Children at all levels of education should be given the opportunity to learn the language, the committee has recommended.

It has also called for a national charter on delivering services and resources, including education, to deaf children and their families.

David Rowlands AM, chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “We believe that it is vital for parents and siblings of deaf and hard of hearing children and young people to be offered an opportunity to learn how to communicate through the medium of British Sign Language.

“Whilst recognising that it is up to Local Authorities and Further Education Colleges to determine their own spending priorities, we are of the view that the Welsh Government could do more to guide local authorities to treat BSL as a language need, rather than a response to a medical need, which may help to reframe the conversation about adequate provision.”

Evidence submitted to the committee suggested BSL classes are dropped during times of financial pressures.

The Welsh Government told the committee that decisions around support and resources made available to deaf and hard of hearing people in Wales were the responsibility of local authorities.

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