British Sign Language accepted as alternative qualification for apprentices to breakdown equality barriers

The government has accepted British Sign Language (BSL) accepted as an alternative qualification to functional skills in English for apprentices where BSL is their first language.

Functional skills are qualifications designed to help people gain practical skills in maths and English.

The change means that deaf apprentices can now take BSL as an alternative to functional skills in English.

The move has been made to ensure equality for people who use BSL and that they gain the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said: “I am committed to breaking down barriers to ensure people of all ages and all backgrounds get on the ladder of opportunity through an apprenticeship.

For those whose first language is British Sign Language, this simple change will allow them to achieve their full potential. I look forward to implementing more changes like this to make sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible, whatever their background.

More people with disabilities have been taking advantage of high-quality apprenticeships. Figures show that in 2015 to 2016, 50,640 of those starting an apprenticeship declared a disability or learning disability (LDD). This is 9.9% of total starts and an increase of 14.8% on 2014 to 2015.

High-quality apprenticeships are essential to support our employers and address skills shortages facing industry so that everyone, regardless of background, gets the chance they deserve to succeed. English and maths are a key element of this.”

Engineering apprentice Max Buxton said: “Being deaf and dyslexic, I find English tests really hard. It’s very difficult to translate BSL into English and for it all to make sense. My employer has said how well I’m doing and doesn’t think my language skills are an issue, but I still can’t complete the apprenticeship without passing that test. It’s an unfair, unnecessary rule that has created a lot of stress, so I’m very pleased things are changing now.

Although more disabled people than ever before are doing apprenticeships, there is still work to be done to make opportunities more accessible to disabled people. A taskforce, led by Paul Maynard, has focused on issues faced by people with disabilities and made a range of recommendations which are now being implemented.”

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