BSL on the national curriculum debate in Westminster on 5 March 2018!

Select Committee Press Notice

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Select Committee Media Officer: Mark Jenner, email:, tel: 0207 219 0969

House of Commons first: live simultaneous BSL interpretation for petition debate

The Commons Petitions Committee has scheduled a debate in Westminster Hall on a petition calling for British Sign Language (BSL) to be part of the National Curriculum.

The petition, started by Sign Language performer and TV and radio presenter Wayne Barrow, has so far been signed by more than 26,500 people. He grew up in Birmingham with profoundly deaf parents. In the petition, Wayne Barrow argues that “Around 50,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language, so why is this not taught in schools? There are many children who are born deaf, and we need to give them a better chance at a more integrated future.”

Although the petition has not reached the 100,000 signatures usually required to be considered for debate, the Petitions Committee recognised that the number of BSL users in the UK is relatively small. That small number would make it difficult to reach the 100,000 signature target. will show a live simultaneous interpretation of the debate, ensuring that BSL users who are deaf or have hearing impairments can follow the debate in real-time. A transcript and subtitled version will be available within hours of the debate.

Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, Chairman of Ways and Means and Principal Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, said:

“The House of Commons is working to make all parliamentary business more accessible to everyone, including people with hearing impairments. We were so pleased to include full BSL translation for the first time in November 2017 for the debate on Deafness and Hearing Loss, but simultaneous translation for the live TV feed has been a complex challenge. I’m thrilled it is now happening in Westminster Hall. It’s fantastic to be part of making the House of Commons more accessible to deaf people.”

BSL interpreters have been used in select committee evidence sessions, as well as in a Westminster Hall debate in November 2017 on Deafness and Hearing Loss, but this will be the first simultaneous BSL interpretation streamed during the live debate coverage.

The debate will be opened by Liz Twist MP, a Member of the Petitions Committee, and start at 4:30pm on Monday 5 March.

Before the debate and in response to the petition, the Government said “whilst it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so. … We have no plans to change the current national curriculum for schools.”

You can read the petition and the government response, on the e-petition website :>petitions

The House of Commons has previously worked with BSL interpreters for select committee inquiries and for a Westminster Hall debate on Deafness and Hearing Loss led by Jim Fitzpatrick MP, but this is the first time Parliament TV will stream the live BSL interpretation for a Westminster Hall debate.

Watch the debate live on Parliament TV:

The Committee is currently made up of 11 backbench Members of Parliament from Government and Opposition parties. The number of seats each party has is calculated to reflect the membership of the House as a whole. The Chair of the Committee was elected on 12 July 2017.

The members of the Committee are:

Helen Jones (Chair) – Labour
Rehman Chishti – Conservative
Martyn Day – Scottish National Party
Michelle Donelan – Conservative
Steve Double – Conservative
Mike Hill – Labour
Susan Elan Jones – Labour
Catherine McKinnell – Labour
Damien Moore – Conservative
Paul Scully – Conservative
Liz Twist – Labour