British Sign Language (BSL): national plan 2023 to 2029

Sets out a range of government actions to tackle barriers faced by British Sign Language (BSL) users to help make Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit and learn.

Children, Young People and their Families

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is our commitment to provide all children, young people and their families with the right support at the right time. This is so that every child and young person in Scotland can reach their full potential.

We want all children and young people to live in an equal society that enables them to flourish, to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect, and to have their rights upheld at all times.

Our ambition is to work together with children, young people, families, organisations and communities to make Scotland the best place to grow up. Through GIRFEC, everyone in Scotland can work together to build the scaffold of support children and young people need to grow up loved, safe and respected.

In working towards this commitment, we recognise the need to develop a clear pathway for deaf and deafblind children that helps promote the use of BSL at each stage in their education journey helping to maximise their potential at school, ensuring that have the right support to engage with BSL. Parents who use BSL will have the same opportunities as other parents to be fully involved in their child’s education.

Our long-term goal:

The Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach will be fully embedded, with a deaf or deafblind child and their family offered the right information and support at the right time to engage with BSL. We will strengthen partnerships between relevant organisations to overcome barriers for BSL users and deaf/ deafblind children to ensure they have the support they need at all stages of their learning, so that they can reach their full potential.

We will:


Facilitate the building of partnerships and effective working relationships between NHS teams and BSL providers. This will help to ensure that deaf and deafblind children and their families can access the right support from the earliest stages of childhood and in doing so we can strive to get it right for every child.


Engage with stakeholders across Scotland to identify and mobilise a network of BSL providers.


Work with representative groups across Midwifery, Health Visiting, Family Nurse Partnership, Allied Health Professionals and Audiology to help them understand the importance of BSL provision on child and family wellbeing.


Support NHS teams and BSL providers to develop robust referral pathways which will result in deaf and deafblind children accessing both the healthcare and language learning support they require.


Consider the needs of those who are deaf and deafblind in our response to the Independent Review of Audiology Services in Scotland which was published in August 2023.


Continue to support education authorities who have duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those who are deaf under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004. This includes the presumption of mainstream which enables children to learn in an environment that best suits their needs. Families are supported through the Scottish advice service for additional support or learning, Enquire, that receives funding from the Scottish Government.


Support opportunities for early years workers to learn BSL up to the level of Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 to inform our future work in this area. SCQF Level 6 BSL is offered by Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and is equivalent to Signature’s BSL Level 3.


Support opportunities for teachers of the deaf and teachers working with deaf and deafblind children and young people in obtaining qualifications up to SCQF Level 10. SCQF Level 10 is equivalent to Signature Level 6 in BSL, which is the highest possible qualification available as of October 2023. SQA’s highest qualification in BSL is Level 4, which is equivalent to SCQF Level 8 and Signature Level 4 in BSL.


To work with the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) to explore and facilitate pathways for BSL users to obtain Qualified Teacher Status.


Develop education as a priority theme within this plan’s Implementation Advisory Group, to explore access to BSL and teaching of BSL.


Support the development of opportunities for deaf and deafblind children, young people, and their families, to learn about the heritage and culture of BSL, especially in Scotland.


Introduce Scotland’s first National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy in this Parliamentary term to ensure there is a joined-up approach so all disabled young people can experience a supported and positive transition to adult life. The Scottish Government BSL Policy team will ensure that BSL users’ lived experience is fed into the development of the strategy.



Back to top