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NDCS Press Release: ‘Major coup’ for British Sign Language (BSL) Advisory Board

Posted in News

The National Deaf Children’s Society is delighted to announce that the charity’s Deputy Director of Local Engagement, has been appointed as a member of the Government’s new British Sign Language (BSL) Advisory Board.

Martin Thacker is one of 16 members on the independent BSL Advisory Board which will represent the deaf community and advise the Government on the creation of guidance on the use of BSL, as set out in the British Sign Language Act 2022 which received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.

The Act gives legal recognition to BSL as a language of Great Britain and mandates the UK Government to produce regular reports on how it is “promoting and facilitating the language”.

Susan Daniels OBE, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Martin is the child of deaf adults (CODA) so has BSL as his first language and a wealth of knowledge to share. His appointment is a major coup for the Board.

“Martin also brings very strong professional experience, both from his long service as a headteacher and in his current role where he leads the whole of our charity’s local engagement activity with NHS and local authority partners across Great Britain. Huge congratulations to Martin on this appointment.”

The National Deaf Children’s Society has been campaigning tirelessly for major improvements in BSL support as there is poor access to sign language lessons for families of deaf children, particularly those in the early years.

Ms Daniels continued: “It is completely unacceptable that many families with deaf children currently face having to pay thousands of pounds to learn sign language to support their child’s language and communication development.”

There is also a lack of high-quality access to specialist BSL support in schools, particularly where deaf children are in mainstream schools. Too many deaf children are being supported by communication support workers who have only basic skills in sign language.

Ms Daniels added: “Despite the support of the Department for Education in England, we still lack opportunities for young people – both deaf and hearing – to learn BSL and to gain a GCSE qualification in BSL. We look forward to working with the new Board in driving forward improvements to BSL access and support.”