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Perseverance is key to one boy’s campaign to get a new qualification introduced.

Daniel Jillings, of Lowestoft, Suffolk, asked the government to introduce a sign language qualification but was told that no new GCSEs would be introduced this parliament. Feeling that he wasn’t getting the support he needed, the 12-year-old, along with his mum Ann, got in touch with our Public Law and Human Rights team.

After highlighting the issue, ministers agreed to consider making ‘an exception’ and look at introducing a sign language GCSE.

His mum Ann said:

“We’re not asking for any special treatment. All we want is for Daniel, and deaf children across the country, to be given the same opportunities as other pupils.

“We’re so pleased that the government finally appears to be recognising how big an issue this is and the announcement is another hurdle cleared. However, it’s now important that the Department for Education acts on its pledge and works with families and sign language charities to develop a British Sign Language GCSE so this issue can be resolved once and for all.”

Daniel is just one of the 1.27 million pupils in England with special education needs, according to the Department for Education. Through our work with charities and campaign groups, we know that pupils’ need for support is increasing.

Alex Rook, one of our partners and public law experts represented the family. He said:

“We’re delighted that the government has backed down from its original position as, at present, the lack of a British Sign Language GCSE is having a major and unnecessary impact on thousands of children each year.”

Director of policy and campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society, Steve Haines, said:

“When we started our campaign to get a GCSE in British Sign Language into schools, we were absolutely amazed by the response; 92% of deaf and hearing children said they wanted the option of taking the GCSE.

“Because of the tireless campaigning for so many deaf children, deaf young people, their parents, and the brilliant Ann and Daniel Jillings, their dream is an important step closer to becoming a reality.”

Turning Point – Winter 2018

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Alex Rook