Deaf students and school leavers struggling to gain adequate qualifications will now be given better access to apprenticeships thanks to changes announced by the Department for Education on Thursday.
For the first time since the scheme was introduced, deaf apprentices enrolled on vocational courses will no longer be required to pass the English functional school test which, until now, had been a compulsory requirement for all participants.
Instead, deaf students who fail or are unable to undertake the test will be able to complete the schemes by obtaining an alternative British Sign Language qualification.
Commenting on the changes, Skills Minister Robert Halfon said he believed it would enable more people with learning and physical disadvantages to find a foothold in the world of work.
“For those whose first language is BSL, this simple change will allow them to achieve their full potential,” he said. “I am committed to breaking down barriers to ensure people of all ages and all backgrounds get on the ladder of opportunity through an apprenticeship. “I look forward to implementing more changes like this to make sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible.”
Whilst over 1,000 deaf people under the age of 25 are currently enrolled on the Government’s apprenticeship scheme annually, charities and campaigners have long called for more flexible policies to accommodate young applicants with physical and learning disabilities.
Brian Gale, policy and campaigns director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, praised the decision, adding that securing better access to apprenticeships was crucial for deaf children seeking full-time employment.
“We’re delighted that the Government has committed to these changes, because it was making it very challenging for some deaf young people to complete their course,” he added.
“BSL is a totally different language, so for users to meet this kind of academic standard is a much bigger challenge than it would be for a native English speaker. We heard from parents whose deaf children who were doing brilliant work in their apprenticeships but being held back by that, which they understandably felt was unfair.
“Most deaf young people move to vocational education at 16, and apprenticeships are a much-needed route to employment. For those whose first language is BSL, this simple change will mean they truly have equal opportunities to achieve their potential.” The changes are due to be implemented in April.
Note: News shared for public awareness with reference from the information provided at online news portals.