BSL in our Hands BSL Teaching Skills 7407 Training BSL Linguistics Skills BSLA Curriculum
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BSL in our Hands

To find out about the history of the BSL Academy and information about who is involved click here.


 About the Project

This project; the BSL in our Hands project is linked with the one year funding that the BDA received from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to train and improve the quality of BSL teachers and to increase knowledge of BSL awareness.

For further information and details on this project look at these links.

 Meet the Project Team

Hi, my name is Richard Jones, I work with the project team and the staff, to coordinate the development.

The staff consists of: Clark Denmark, who is the project manager and he is responsible for developing the curriculum. Frances Elton, who is responsible for the development of BSL linguistics skills. Tessa Padden who works on developing BSL teaching skills. Carol McEachran who develops the 7407 training. Peter Jackson who is responsible for accrediting the BSL and BSL Teaching qualifications.


 Message from the BDA

The BDA’s vision has many aspects. The first is that the deaf community should own BSL, so deaf people should control the BSL curriculum, materials and teaching. This is why I am so glad we have set up the BSL academy so deaf people are taking charge of their own language.

Any language such as English, French, German or BSL should essentially have 3 things; a language learning curriculum, modern teaching methodologies and good quality teachers. This 3rd thing is something which BSL is in great need of.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) awarded funding to the BDA to develop a project to teach Deaf people to become qualified BSL teachers. We are grateful to the DWP for this funding. It will help enhance the quality of BSL teachers and thus BSL itself, as taught by the Deaf community.


 Message from Minister for Disabled People
 - Anne McGuire

BSL Tuition in Deaf People’s Hands’ is a vital project which helps address the communication barriers that thousands of Deaf BSL users face day-to-day. Even in my short teaching career, I learned how valuable it is to share best practise and teaching resources. By providing BSL Teacher training, more and more BSL Teachers can improve their teaching skills and in turn, train up their learners to higher levels. And so the virtuous cycle goes on.

The Government is committed to improving the rights and participation of Deaf BSL users and recognised BSL as a language in its own right in 2003. We underpinned that by investing £1.5m in promoting awareness of BSL and increasing access to training for BSL teachers through projects such as this, which in their own way will have a meaningful impact on the local community and its citizens.


 History of BSL teacher training

Do you know when BSL teaching started? It was actually started quite a way back. In the old days, hearing people who wanted to learn sign language would go to Deaf clubs. In those days the majority of people who taught sign language were vicars or missioners. These hearing people were taught sign language by a then traditional method of being shown a written word e.g. mother, then taught the appropriate sign for the written word and asked to copy it. This was the normal method of teaching for quite some time.

In 1979 people started thinking about new ideas of how to teach sign language, and deaf people also started growing in confidience and became interested in wanting to teach. Dot Miles was given the responsibility to develop a ‘How to teach BSL pack’ over a 2 year period. This was a breakthrough the first deaf person to devise how to teach sign language. She also encouraged deaf people to start teaching sign language, but these deaf people were still nervous about teaching hearing people. In 1981 she tried to set up a course with deaf teachers, but this proved difficult as deaf people were not confident enough, as they first needed to be taught how to teach.

The BDA thought about this problem and then in 1985 they established the BSLTA which was set up at the University of Durham. Around this time the BBC had created a TV series looking at how hearing people learn to sign, just as they would want to learn other languages, such as French or German. The BBC were set to run this programme, but had not enough BSL teachers hence they contacted the University of Durham and they became responsible for training the BSL teachers to teach sign language.

This was the first instance of Deaf people being properly taught how to teach BSL. From then onwards there were many sign language courses which were very popular. But there was still a lack of quality BSL teachers. Currently there are different teacher training courses available, but these are not adequate for teaching BSL, as these courses deal mainly with timetable administration, lesson planning and how to manage students in classes, etc. They do not actually address the issue of how to teach BSL, so this Project is the solution. An intensive course focusing on how to train Deaf people to teach BSL so that they would feel confident enough to do so to a high standard, leading to those people who have learned sign language having good BSL skills. Here is your brief overview of the history of BSL teacher training.

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