The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Move to unitisation of qualifications at CACDP

Bob Peckford, Director of Development, CACDP

Although most of the 35,000 candidates assessed annually for CACDP awards are in the further education sector, an increasing number of schools are submitting candidates, particularly for BSL and related qualifications. A programme of work now underway at CACDP to unitise our portfolio of qualifications will benefit both groups.

The move to unitisation is driven by:

  1. the need to have units and qualifications that are up-to-date, relevant to the needs of learners and therefore fit for purpose;
  2. QCA's existing (and proposed future) regulation of qualifications that require all qualifications to be in units;
  3. the recognition that people learn best if they can tackle their learning in bite-sized chunks.

New qualifications such as the Level 2 in the History of BSL and the non-vocational Level 3 BSL/ISL, which commences later in 2006, were designed in unit format, but the first of the current awards to be unitised are Level 1 BSL and Level 1 ISL. These Level 1 awards have now been accredited by the QCA and will be available from 1 January 2006.

By the end of the year the work on most of the other CACDP awards will be completed. At the end of the process all CACDP's awards will be made up of units. Some will be new qualifications and others will involve changes to existing qualifications.

The unitised Level 1 BSL/ISL award comprises three units.

  1. Unit 101 - Introduction to BSL (10 learning hours) - internally assessed by tutor and externally moderated from the video of the assessment by CACDP.
  2. Unit 102 - Conversational BSL/ISL (20 learning hours) - externally assessed offsite from video by CACDP assessors.
  3. Unit 103 - BSL/ISL at School, College and Work (20 learning hours) - externally assessed offsite from video by CACDP assessors.

Candidates successfully completing all three units will be awarded the full Level 1 Certificate in BSL or ISL. CACDP responded to comments from schools about the pricing of BSL assessments and agreed a fee of £25 (usually £44) for candidates up to the age of 16 who complete all three units.

The current Level 1 BSL/ISL awards will be withdrawn on 30 December 2006 and final examination entries must be received no later than 30 September 2006. Examination entries for the unitised Level 1 have been accepted since January 2006, and from January 2007 assessment for the new unitised award only will be available.

The award specification will be published in January and will be available to registered centres on DVD in BSL in April. These will include details of the internal assessment arrangements for Unit 101 (which is to be conducted by tutors) as well as for Units 102 and 103 (carried out by tutors but externally marked by CACDP assessors). Current BSL/ISL tutors will find the specification for the new awards very similar to the one they are familiar with although they will be much more involved in the assessment process than they are currently.

A programme of workshops, is to be provided from May to December at venues around the UK. These events will provide an opportunity for tutors to discuss the curriculum and assessment in person with CACDP trainers, and will be particularly useful to those who have limited experience of teaching the current award or of assessment.

More information on the unitised Level 1 BSL/ISL is available on CACDP's website or by email from The unitised Level 2 BSL/ISL and the Level 3 (non vocational) are likely to be available from September 2006, and it is worth noting that for students' league table points, Level 2 Certification, in BSL or ISL, carries the same points score as a Grade B at GC(S)E. This means that it is recognised as being of the same level and size, and therefore achievement as a good GC(S)E.

Living History of BSL

The other recent significant CACDP development of particular interest to schools is the introduction of the Level 2 Certificate in the Living History of BSL. This is the first new CACDP award to be designed in unit form.

LH1 - Unit 1 - The History and Status of BSL

  1. The history of sign language in Britain - development of manual alphabet and sign language, well-known Deaf people in history.
  2. BSL in the present day - research into BSL; development of Deaf organisations, campaign for official sign language recognition.
LH2 - Unit 2 - BSL in the Lives of Deaf People (Personal, Family, Work, Social, Community and Education)
  1. Personal, family and working life - Deaf identity, culture, career opportunities.
  2. Social and community life - institutions and activities in the Deaf Community, BSL in the media.
  3. Education - sign language in the education of Deaf children through the centuries, role of BSL in education today.

The recommended length of this course is a minimum of 40 hours.

Unit 1 is externally assessed by a 30-minute examination with multiple choice questions and questions requiring short written answers. Candidates may present their answers to the questions in written English, spoken or in BSL to video camera. Unit 2 is internally assessed by the tutor. Candidates will produce a coursework file, and a prepared assignment about the life of a Deaf person from a given period of history. Candidates may present their work for this unit in written English, spoken English or BSL to video camera, or a mixture of the three.

A tutor resource pack for teaching the course has been produced with the support of the British Deaf History Society and is available from CACDP.

Access to External Assessment for D/deaf candidates Finally, members of BATOD who attended the second CACDP conference on the theme of SENDA in November 2005 received a copy of this CACDP guidance for awarding bodies. The document is downloadable from the CACDP website. We welcome comments on the guidance and would like in particular to invite contributions concerning access for deafblind candidates so that we can include this in the next edition. We intend to update the guidance on a regular basis. Contributions and comments should be sent to

Editors note
‘Unitisation' is jargon now in common usage in the qualifications world, where qualifications that used to be in one chunk have now to be divided into units in order to meet the requirements of the regulators. A large number of awarding bodies are going through this process at the moment, though not all are doing it as openly/consultatively as CACDP. Some (eg A Level ABs) did it a while ago when they 'modularised' A-levels, or made them modular. The outcome of 'unitisation' is 'unit-based qualifications'.

March 2006

This document is time sensitive due to the information about examinations. Please visit the CACDP website for updates.