Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.

British Sign Language

BSL as an L3 - register now

28 April 2022 (SCILT / Garvel Deaf Centre)

SCILT, in collaboration with Garvel Deaf Centre in Gourock, Inverclyde will be offering online British Sign Language (BSL) classes to support L3 in primary schools in the 2022-23 school session. 

Applications are now open for schools to register their interest in the ‘BSL as an L3’ programme. The weekly lessons will be suitable for pupils in P5-P7 and are free of charge. In addition to the live lessons, supplementary resources such as video clips will be provided on Teams to support asynchronous learning opportunities.

The block of online classes will:

  • begin on Thursday 8 September
  • run for 10 weeks, with a two-week break in October
  • take place live on Glow Teams 
  • be 45 minutes in length
  • be delivered by an experienced deaf tutor, supported by a BSL interpreter
  • raise deaf awareness
  • promote inclusion and diversity

Schools selected to take part in the programme must attend an information session on Tuesday 7 June at 3.30pm on Teams.

Register your interest by Monday 16 May 2022 via the link below. For more information please contact SCILT. 


BA Performance in British Sign Language and English

25 January 2022 (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

If you identify as D/deaf or hard of hearing, and want to perform or create work on stage and screen, the BA Performance in British Sign Language and English course could be for you. The undergraduate degree is designed around the learning and teaching needs of deaf performers and is the only course of its kind in Europe. The programme has been developed in association with Solar Bear Theatre Company with input from a range of theatre, education and deaf professionals. The working languages of the programme are British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English. 

The programme only recruits for students every 3 years and the next cohort is due to start in September 2022. Visit the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland website to find out more and apply by 31 January 2022. You can also watch videos of recent graduates, Amy and Bea, sharing their experiences of the programme.


BSL as an L3 - register now

4 June 2021 (SCILT / Garvel Deaf Centre)

SCILT has been working, in collaboration with Garvel Deaf Centre in Gourock, Inverclyde to develop a series of online British Sign Language (BSL) classes to support L3 in primary schools. We are delighted that registration is now open for schools to register their interest in the ‘BSL as an L3’ programme. The weekly lessons will be suitable for pupils in P5-P7 and are free of charge. In addition to the live lessons, supplementary resources such as video clips will be provided on Teams to support asynchronous learning opportunities.

The block of online classes will:

  • begin in early September
  • take place live on MS Teams 
  • be 45 minutes in length, once a week, for 10 weeks
  • be delivered by an experienced deaf tutor, supported by a BSL interpreter
  • raise deaf awareness
  • promote inclusion and diversity

Register your interest by 21 June 2021 via the link below. For more information please contact SCILT. To hear of more opportunities from Scotland’s National Centre for Languages please subscribe to our weekly bulletin -


Related Files

BSL:  New case study alert!

23 October 2020 (SCILT)

SCILT is delighted to announce the publication of its new case study on engaging parents with languages. This study, in conjunction with Education Scotland, highlights how Moorfoot Primary and Garvel Deaf Centre in Gourock support parents of deaf and hearing children with learning BSL. It provides insightful information on how BSL features greatly within the school, in addition to the other languages taught. Parents, pupils and staff share their experience of using and learning BSL and emphasise the value, significance and importance of all language learning and the impact it can have locally and beyond.


Should all children learn sign language?

7 March 2020 (BBC)

A teenager and her brother are leading a campaign to make sign language part of the school curriculum.

Doctors said Christian would never be able to communicate because of brain damage sustained at birth. But his sister, Jade, learned sign language just so she could teach him. Now they have a large following on social media, where they sign along to popular songs to teach others.

Jade also started a petition to make sign language lessons a part of the primary school curriculum - she has had over 100,000 signatures.

Some schools, like the James Wolfe Schools in east London already teach sign language, but would it be possible to roll out on a nationwide scale?


Call for all schools to teach sign language 'to make world more inclusive'

16 February 2020 (Sky News)

Nearly 100,000 people have signed a petition set up by an 18-year-old calling for all schools to teach basic sign language.

Jade Kilduff, 18, launched the campaign after seeing how sign language transformed her younger brother's life. Christian, four, has brain damage and cerebral palsy and his family were told he would never be able to communicate, so Jade spent two years teaching him sign language.

"Christian communicates by using sign language and a lot of people when talking to Christian would have to talk through me," Jade told Sky News.

"And I thought it was unfair that he could only communicate to me and a few of our family members and I thought if everybody just knew a little bit of sign then it would make the world more inclusive."


Award for lecturer that likes to teach the world to sign

8 October 2019 (Deadline News)

A University of Dundee lecturer has been honoured for using sign language and music to bring youngsters together in harmony.

Sharon Tonner-Saunders, a lecturer in the University’s School of Education and Social Work, has been named as a recipient of a British Council eTwinning National Award for using songs and Makaton to break down international language barriers.

Unlike British Sign Language, which is the language of the UK’s deaf community, Makaton was developed to assist hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. Signs are developed to look like a word and be as simple as possible to perform, making it particularly easy for children to learn.

Her project, Hands of the World, has brought together learners of all ages and student teachers in schools from more than 40 countries, with classes contributing video clips of themselves singing and signing along to popular songs.


Google sign language AI turns hand gestures into speech

20 August 2019 (BBC)

Google says it has made it possible for a smartphone to interpret and "read aloud" sign language.

The tech firm has not made an app of its own but has published algorithms which it hopes developers will use to make their own apps.

Until now, this type of software has only worked on PCs.

Campaigners from the hearing-impaired community have welcomed the move, but say the tech might struggle to fully grasp some conversations.


Petition to make BSL first language for deaf children in Wales

5 October 2018 (BBC)

A petition for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales has been submitted.

Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in Wales, wants the Welsh Government to widen access to education and services in BSL.

The petition gathered 1,162 signatures and the National Assembly's petitions committee has recommended changes.

The committee's report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

One of the report's recommendations is the development of a national charter for the delivery of services, including education, to deaf children, young people and their families.


'No barriers to stop you' - deaf referee aims to inspire [video]

27 May 2018 (BBC )

Category six referee Jason Taylor will become the Scottish Football Association’s first representative at the Deaf Champions League finals, which takes place in Milan from 28 May – 2 June.

Having started refereeing in 2005, Jason hopes to inspire other deaf people to "realise there are no barriers to stop you from doing what you want to do".

From Dunfermline, he says his refereeing idol is Hugh Dallas.


UK's first sign language poetry slam

15 May 2018 (BBC)

Deaf poets fight it out in the UK's first ever poetry slam for users of sign language. Watch the video.


BSL event at the Scottish Parliament

27 April 2018 (Scottish Government)

To help us prepare our British Sign Language Plan, we will be holding an event at the Scottish Parliament building to gather the views of BSL users. Please come along!

The event will be on the afternoon of Friday 18 May and the morning of Saturday 19 May.

Tours of the Scottish Parliament debating chamber and garden lobby will be available in BSL on both days.

Visit the website for more information and to book.


SQA is developing new BSL qualifications for schools

26 April 2018 (SQA)

SQA is developing a new range of Awards in British Sign Language. The first two Awards will be available from Autumn 2018, at SCQF level 3 and 4. Further Awards at SCQF levels 5 and 6 will be available from Autumn 2019.

The Awards will be aimed at young BSL learners in schools and colleges. These new qualifications will offer an attractive addition to the choice of languages already available to young learners in Scotland. The Awards will be similar in length and demand to the existing National Courses in Modern Languages available from SQA.

The units that make up the new Awards have been adapted to respect BSL’s difference from spoken/written languages, and learners will also have the opportunity to develop their understanding of the Deaf community and its culture and history.


15 Years On, The Time For A BSL Act Is Now

19 March 2018 (Huffington Post)

Sunday 18th March marked the 15th anniversary since British Sign Language (BSL) was given official recognition as a language under the last Labour government. This date, which fell within British Sign Language Week, was an occasion to celebrate with great pride, as it gave deaf people the basic recognition they deserve.

I was truly honoured to become the first ever Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House of Commons using BSL, during the week of last year’s anniversary. I have a level two qualification in BSL having learnt it many years ago so that I could communicate with a work colleague, and as Ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club this is an issue which is very close to my heart.

It is estimated that there are about nine million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This includes an estimated 151,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. BSL is a beautiful, unique language and deaf and hard of hearing people deserve the right to communicate and live their lives using their preferred language.

Despite the importance of celebrating this anniversary, we must recognise there is still some way to go until BSL is equal under the law. I am firmly of the belief that the only way to give the deaf community the equality and recognition they deserve is to bring a BSL Act before Parliament.


Oscars 2018: Ex-Hollyoaks star uses sign language in acceptance speech

5 March 2018 (BBC)

A film starring a six-year-old deaf British girl and made by two former Hollyoaks stars has won an Oscar.

The Silent Child, which tells the story of a girl who struggles to communicate, was named best live action short film.

It stars Maisie Sly, aged six, from Swindon, and Rachel Shenton, who played Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap.

Shenton also wrote it and used sign language in her acceptance speech. It was directed by Chris Overton - AKA Hollyoaks cage fighter Liam McAllister.

"I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I would sign this speech," Shenton said while accepting the statuette at Sunday's ceremony in Hollywood.


Glasgow factory workers learn sign language to communicate with deaf colleagues

29 November 2017 (Evening Times)

A group of city factory workers have been learning sign language to allow them to communicate with their deaf colleagues.

Window factory staff at RSBi, the manufacturing arm of City Building, are being taught British Sign Language as part of a new national scheme to boost opportunities for deaf people.

The Scottish Government scheme, the first of its kind, aims to make Scotland the most inclusive place for BSL users to work, live and visit.

Royal Strathclyde Blind Industry got involved by enlisting the help of non-hearing BSL approved employee Mark McGowan to teach classes at its window factory in Queenslie.

The lessons have been running since October and the firm says they have increased day-to-day communication among workmates creating a more happy and confident team.


Actors taking sign language to the stage

13 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of actors from the UK’s only degree course for deaf performers are taking their show on the road for the first time this week, with the hope that it will challenge public perceptions. 

The production, which blends British Sign Language (BSL) with spoken English, will be performed by students from the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The group of ten actors are all studying Performance in British Sign Language and English, a three-year degree course which is the only one of its kind in the UK.


British Sign Language will count as 'foreign language' for university applicants

7 August 2017 (TES)

A leading university has announced plans to recognise British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications in its entry requirements.

University College London (UCL) said that in future, BSL will be considered as meeting the institution's modern foreign language (MFL) requirement.

The university is the only UK institution that requires all of its UK undergraduates to hold at least a C grade at GCSE in another language or to sign up for courses as part of their degree.

It has now announced that it will recognise sign language as part of the requirement, saying it hopes the decision will increase awareness and access to the language.


Understanding the amazing complexity of sign language

21 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Most people are familiar with sign language, the system that deaf people use to communicate. What fewer may know is that there are many different sign languages around the world, just as there are many different spoken languages.

So how does the grammar of sign language work?

Unlike in spoken languages, in which grammar is expressed through sound-based signifiers for tense, aspect, mood and syntax (the way we organise individual words), sign languages use hand movements, sign order as well as body and facial cues to create grammar. This is called non-manual activity.

To find out whether these cues are comprehensible to signers and non-signers of a country, my team of deaf and hearing linguists and translators conducted two studies. The results, which will be published in July, demonstrate the incredible complexity of sign language.


Pupil's sign language address to Scottish Parliament

9 May 2017 (BBC)

A profoundly deaf Falkirk High School pupil has delivered the Scottish Parliament's Time for Reflection in sign language.

Jemma Skelding, 12, is the youngest person to deliver the address, which is the parliament's first item of business of the week in the chamber.

Miss Skelding said she was pleased be at Holyrood ahead of next week's Deaf Awareness Week.

She told MSPs her parents and an older sister were also deaf.

Miss Skelding shared her experiences of using sign language in the address, which was translated by Mary McDevitt.

She said she grew up using sign language at home and thought everyone could use it, until she attended her first nursery.

Miss Skelding said that her next nursery taught everyone sign language half a day a week.

She said: "This was a really happy time for me.

"I was with my friends and I just felt like everyone else, we played together and we laughed a lot, we even had special sign names for each other."

Miss Skelding said things changed in P3, and by the following year she was "unhappy and felt very lonely."


More sign language classes are to be held in Moffat due to demand

4 May 2017 (DNG24)

Resident Fiona Stewart, who is herself deaf, will lead the four sessions, starting on the evening of Wednesday May 17 and also running the 24 and 31 and June 7.

It comes after she hosted a successful initial introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) course earlier this year, attended by 50 people.

It was initiated by Catherine Jackson, whose children wanted to learn BSL.

She said: “The class was so popular that we ended up running two groups, both over four sessions. And there’s still a waiting list and requests for us to run more.”


Launch of British Sign Language (BSL) Bookbug session in Fife

25 April 2017 (Fife Today)

Bookbug – a free story, song and rhyme session for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their families is set to launch Fife’s debut British Sign Language friendly group at Kirkcaldy Libraries next month.

All deaf parents with hearing children, hearing parents with deaf children and deaf parents with deaf children are invited to book a place.

Depending on uptake, the hope is to continue these specialised sessions on a monthly basis.

The event, on May 15 at 10.30am, is part of Bookbug Week 2017, which takes place between May 15-21 in celebration of ‘Bookbug’s Big Giggle’. This fun and playful theme will inspire children and adults alike to feel good by sharing songs and rhymes.


Consultation on the British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan

1 March 2017 (Scottish Government)

This consultation on the Draft British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan seeks to gather your views about the proposed actions. The plan has been produced in collaboration with the BSL National Advisory Group.

The consultation is open from 1 March to 31 May 2017.


Sign language degree opens opportunities

17 November 2016 (Edinburgh News)

A chronic UK-wide shortage of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters led Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to launch Scotland’s first BSL degree course in 2012 to equip students with the skills they require for a career in translation and interpretation.

The first cohort graduated in June with many going straight into jobs as a result of the high demand for BSL interpreters.

Many interpreters are self employed, working freelance and using agencies to source work within the deaf community. Others go into salaried employment, as Sam Rojas, 21, did with North East Sensory Services (NESS) in Aberdeen after graduating from Heriot-Watt.


Celebrate National Poetry Day!

6 October 2016 (SCILT)

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is 'Messages'. To mark the occasion we've created our own triolet poem in French on this theme.

You can see the poem on the National Poetry Day webpage of our MTOT website. We hope it will provide some inspiration for those taking part in the Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition in Scotland! There are lots of other poetry resources on our website too. So take a look and get creative!


Channel 4 to launch UK's first sign language-only TV ad

6 September 2016 (The Guardian)

Channel 4 is to air what is believed to be the first TV ad ever to use sign language as part of a campaign to promote diversity as it kicks off coverage of the Rio Paralympic Games.

The 30-second ad, which will not initially air with subtitles, leaving most viewers unable to understand the commercial, is one of three created by chocolate maker Mars to promote its Maltesers brand and champion diversity.

Mars was the winner of a competition held by Channel 4, called Superhumans Wanted, offering £1m in free TV ad space to the ad agency, advertiser, organisation or production company submitting the strongest campaign featuring disability and disabled talent.


Deaf awareness week

2 May 2016 (ITV)

ITV and Coronation Street have been working with ITV SignPost to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week. Sign language will feature in scenes in the Rovers, bought to life by signing actors Emma Wilding and Haylie Jones on Friday 6 May. Throughout the week, Emmerdale and ITV's Daytime will also be featuring sign-language on their shows.


Sign into Elderbank

29 April 2016 (BBC, The L.A.B Scotland)

In this video to highlight national deaf awareness week, pupils from Elderbank Primary school share their signing skills and offer top tips about deaf awareness.


Scotland becomes first part of UK to recognise signing for deaf as official language

18 October 2015 (The Herald)

Campaigners have hailed new legislation which will recognise signing as an official language in Scotland as a step towards breaking the “brick ceiling” which the deaf community faces in everyday life.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, which is due to become law in the next few weeks, will see Scotland become the first part of the UK to recognise signing for the deaf as an official language.

It means the Scottish Government and public bodies will have a responsibility to promote the language and consider how services can be provided in British Sign Language (BSL).


National roll-out for sign language interpreting service

2 March 2015 (Scottish Government)

A nationwide roll-out of a new online interpreting service will allow deaf people across Scotland to use sign language to contact public sector services.

The Scottish Government has announced today the extension of the current NHS 24 online British Sign Language (BSL) Video Relay Interpreting Service pilot to the rest of the public sector in Scotland.

The new Scottish Government-funded service, contactSCOTLAND, will mean deaf people can now speak to public services, such as their local council, doctor’s surgery and the Scottish Government, without the need for someone to call on their behalf.

This project is unique in the UK and is the first nationally funded public sector Video Relay Service.


BSL and Makaton signing classes for Highland pupils

25 January 2015 (The Scotsman)

Nursery and primary school pupils in the Highlands will be the first in Scotland to be taught sign language as part of the new curriculum.

Smithton Primary, on the outskirts of Inverness, will teach youngsters both British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton – a form of signing for those with special educational needs or communication disorders that is popularly used by Mr Tumble on the CBeebies show Something Special.

The move at the school has been welcomed by the British Deaf Association and the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

It has come about after the Scottish Government’s announcement that all primary age children should have two additional languages as well as their first language.


New job profile on the SCILT website

7 October 2014 (SCILT)

Communicating in another language doesn't necessarily mean you have to speak it.  Confused?  All will be revealed by interpreter, Paul Belmonte, in the latest job profile added to our website.


Why we should all be more open to interpretation

15 August 2014 (TESS)

Professor Graham Turner is playing devil’s advocate in a fresh bid to persuade the Scottish government to give BSL parity with other languages. More than 12,500 people in Scotland use BSL at home but fewer than 100 interpreters are registered nationwide. An interactive, one-off show, Speech Sucks: the Future Signs, is compèred by comedian Susan Morrison, with interpreters translating her words into BSL and doing the reverse for Professor Turner and his Heriot-Watt colleague.


SQA announces new partnership with SignVideo

24 March 2014 (SQA)

SQA has partnered with SignVideo to enable deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact them conveniently in their own language.

A BSL Live link is now available on the contact page of the SQA website.

BSL users, with access to a computer, a webcam and a broadband connection, are now able to connect to a SignVideo interpreter instantly and make a free BSL interpreted call to the SQA Customer Support Team.

Professor takes vow of silence in support of deaf community

21 March 2014 (Times Higher Education)

Graham Turner at Heriot-Watt raises awareness for Sign Language Week.


Signing should be classed as foreign language for GCSE

17 June 2013 (BBC News)

(Applies to England) Ministers are facing calls to make British Sign Language count as a modern foreign language at GCSE level. A modern language is defined in England as one that can be spoken or written - so BSL cannot qualify at the moment.  But deaf awareness charity Signature points out that sign language is included on the education curriculum in Sweden, Norway and Finland.


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