AREA OF LEARNING AND EXPERIENCELanguages, Literacy and Communication
Guidance to help schools and settings develop their own curriculum, enabling learners to develop towards the four purposes.
5. Designing your curriculum
This provides specific guidance when incorporating learning in languages, literacy and communication in your curriculum. It should be read together with the overarching Designing your curriculum section which is relevant to learning and teaching through all areas of learning and experience.
Cross-curricular skills and integral skills
A curriculum must embed the mandatory cross-curricular skills and the integral skills that underpin the four purposes of the curriculum. The following are some key principles which settings/schools should consider when designing learning and teaching in the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience (Area).
Literacy should be at the heart of this Area, across all statements of what matters. Literacy skills should be explicitly taught in this Area. These can allow learners to express themselves, to understand and interpret written and spoken language and to articulate meaning. Settings and schools should plan for the application and development of learners’ literacy skills across the curriculum at every progression step.
The descriptions of learning for this Area are broad in scope and provide reference points for progression. More detail about progression in literacy across the curriculum is provided in the National Literacy Framework.
In this Area there are often opportunities to use literacy and numeracy skills together, for example when working out worded problems. There should also be opportunities to explore numeracy in different languages which can consolidate conceptual understanding.
Learning in this Area should provide opportunities to use different methods of digital communication. Learners should learn how to compose clear and appropriate messages tailored for particular audiences, sharing, collaborating, editing and adapting, as required. Opportunities should also be offered for them to collaborate locally and globally through digital platforms in order to increase awareness and understanding of different languages and cultures. Using technology when learning about literature can help learners deepen their understanding beyond the text in front of them.
Creativity and innovation
Learning in this Area should provide opportunities to experiment with and use languages creatively in order to give learners the confidence to take risks, to express opinions and to generate ideas across languages that can lead to innovative outcomes. They can develop their creativity through opportunities to create and perform literature. Creative expression can enhance learners’ understanding of the key concepts as well as the method of expression itself.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
In this Area listening, reading, speaking and writing should underpin the development of critical thinking and problem-solving. These skills can be honed by communicating with others in order to understand situations and articulate ideas and to develop responses to problems.
Learners should develop their personal effectiveness and self-awareness when learning and using their languages, which will in turn support learning across the whole curriculum. Providing a language-rich environment should support all learners to reflect on their own strengths in language use, and identify their own areas of development in order to continuously enhance their language and communication skills.
Planning and organising
Learning in this Area should enable learners to develop the skills to select and use appropriate sources and information. This should allow them to organise ideas, to create effective plans and to develop creative works. Given the opportunity to use literacy skills to present plans and implement solutions with clarity, learners can reflect on their work and plan and implement further improvements.
Specific considerations for this Area
The four statements of what matters in this Area refer to Welsh, English and international languages. The four statements should be considered holistically when designing the setting/school’s curriculum. They are interdependent, with each one supporting the development of the other three. All methods of communication including listening, reading, speaking and writing can be developed through literature and through exploring the links between languages, culture and identity. Each statement recognises that learning skills and knowledge in one language can strengthen the knowledge and learning of those skills in all subsequent languages.
Key principles when designing your curriculum for this Area
Settings and schools will need to plan to ensure all learners make appropriate progress in Welsh, in English and in international languages. The concept of a language learning continuum underlies progression in this Area. Learners will progress from having little or no language skills and knowledge towards proficiency in the languages they learn at school. Learners will have varying proficiencies in their languages and when designing the setting/school’s curriculum for second and subsequent languages the early steps, such as grapheme-phoneme correspondence, will need careful consideration.
Descriptions of learning for ‘Languages connect us’ are common to all learners in all schools in Wales.
Descriptions of learning for the other three statements of what matters in this Area are presented to reflect the pace and depth in different language learning contexts. Settings/schools will need to consider the descriptions of learning for Welsh most suited to their learners. As well as learners in Welsh-medium settings and schools, the pace and depth of progression in Welsh shown in the Welsh/English descriptions of learning may also be the most suitable for some learners in English-medium schools who, for example, have attended a cylch meithrin or have transferred from a Welsh-medium school to an English-medium school.
Progression in international language(s) is shown in descriptions of learning for Progression steps 3, 4 and 5. In addition to Welsh and English, all learners should have the opportunity to learn at least one international language at school and to use other home languages and community languages they may speak. Settings and schools should encourage learners to use their plurilingual skills and learners should recognise the value of being able to use different languages.
The choice of which international languages to offer lies with the school or cluster. Schools may choose to offer different international languages – language learning skills are transferable, and learners can enhance their linguistic and intercultural awareness by being exposed to multiple languages. Settings and schools may wish to collaborate with others, for example to offer continuity in the language offered from one progression step to the next or so that learners have more choice of international languages. They may choose to offer languages which are spoken by staff at the school or by the wider community. They should take advantage of opportunities globally, digitally and in the community to reinforce the learning and teaching of languages.
The Five Stage Model for English as an additional language (EAL) and Welsh as an additional language (WAL) and support materials should be referenced when considering progression of EAL learners in English-medium schools and WAL learners in Welsh-medium schools. The Language acquisition needs assessment survey toolkit for primary and secondary teachers is available online on Hwb.
Key considerations when designing your curriculum for this Area
When designing your curriculum in your school, consideration should be given to the nature of your language provision as well as the range of linguistic and cultural experiences you offer your learners. Schools should also plan for skills development in all the languages on offer and ensure breadth and depth when selecting literature.
Considerations for provision and experiences
- What is the current linguistic landscape of your school and your cluster? How can you best use this to help your learners make progress in all their languages?
- How will you choose which international language or languages to teach? How will you provide breadth and depth in international languages?
- How will you provide suitable and sufficient opportunities for learners to use their Welsh, English and international language(s) in purposeful contexts?
- How will you create an environment which encourages learners to draw upon their knowledge of a number of languages, including knowledge of language varieties (accent, dialect, register, jargon, and idiolect) to facilitate understanding and improve communication when interacting with others?
- How will you develop strategies to include and build upon learners’ home languages and cultures in the classroom?
- How will you provide opportunities for learners to participate in spontaneous as well as planned speaking in various contexts with a range of peers and adults?
- How will you provide learners with a wide range of literature, including multimodal and challenging texts in paper, digital, electronic and live form, fostering their enjoyment of purposeful reading and viewing, and encouraging them to explore books and new technologies?
Considerations for language development
- How will you ensure that all learners continue to progress in all their languages from their different starting points?
- How will you provide opportunities to connect with others in different parts of the world to offer authentic contexts for language and cultural development?
- How will you ensure rich language environments for all learners, including multilingual environments, face-to-face, via digital or written language(s), as a model for improving their own language skills?
- How will you provide a systematic development of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness?
- How will you support reading development for all learners?
- What relevant, engaging, authentic and challenging stimuli can you provide to inspire and aid preparation for purposeful speaking and writing (indoors, outdoors, through visits/trips, etc.)?
- How will you provide opportunities for learners to make progress both in learning to talk and learning through talk?
- How will you ensure that knowledge and skills in one language are transferred to and developed in other languages?
Considerations when selecting literature
- Learners should experience a wealth of literature which provides opportunities to realise the four purposes of the curriculum.
- Schools should create a positive reading culture which immerses learners in literature that reflects their interests and ignites their enthusiasm.
- Learners should be exposed to a diverse range of literary experiences beyond the classroom.
- Learners should be introduced to literature which reflects diversity and cultures in the locality, Wales as well as the wider world.
- Schools should choose literature which is sufficiently rich and substantial to engage learners intellectually and emotionally and which can encourage them to be inspired, moved and changed.
- Schools should ensure that learners experience a range of contemporary literature and literature from different periods in the past.
Learners should have the opportunity to experience and to learn about literature and creators of literature which have made a significant contribution, be that in Wales (in Welsh/English), other nations in the United Kingdom, and/or the wider world (including English literature and literature in learners’ international and home languages). This contribution might be in terms of a field of literature, in terms of the language, or in terms of culture and heritage.
Pedagogical considerations for this Area
When designing your curriculum, consideration should be given to pedagogies specific to this Area. Effective learning and teaching of skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing require a systematic whole-school approach, as do cross-linguistic skills such as mediation and translanguaging. Schools should also be aware of the differences between acquisition and learning first, second and subsequent languages in their contexts and consider how best to ensure progression for all learners in all their languages, for example through immersion, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) or plurilingual activities.
Further information can be found at:
At the earliest stages, learning to read is dependent upon the spoken language that learners have. Developing good listening and speaking skills is therefore vital to success in learning to read.
Young learners may be familiar with storybooks, nursery rhymes and print when they start funded education. Some will have started to recognise single letters and words. Others, however, will have much more limited experience of using language, sharing stories, songs and rhymes with adults. In some cases, learners may have general or specific learning needs. They may also be learning to read in a language that is different from their spoken language. These different starting points and experiences mean settings and schools need to make informed decisions about how they will help learners to become successful readers.
Learners should gain early reading skills within a rich language environment, where activities are meaningful, imaginative and varied. These activities should promote learners’ interest in reading for enjoyment, for imaginative purposes and for learning.
Research recognises phonological and phonemic awareness as important cognitive skills in learning to read. Schools should put in place a clear procedure for, and place emphasis on, the systematic development of learners’ phonological and phonemic awareness. When appropriate for a learner, the teaching of phonics should be systematic and consistent, and take place with other language activities, which promote vocabulary-building and comprehension.
Being able to decode words alone is not enough; readers need to be able to make sense of what they read. Teaching should enable learners to gain a range of skills and to apply different strategies in order to become fluent readers. This should provide them with a secure basis for developing and extending their language and literacy skills.
The following are provided as examples of how you could explore different topical learning in this Area. These are illustrations only.
Increased knowledge of languages can unlock the stories and histories of place names such as Cymru (and Wales) itself, or Glasgow in Scotland or Trelew in Argentina. A range of literature from writers and poets as diverse as T.H. Parry Williams, Shakespeare, Manon Steffan Ros , Eric Ngalle Charles and Russell T. Davies offers different perspectives and interpretations of Wales and Welsh experiences which could inspire learners to express their own identity and understand changes over time in society. Being able to communicate effectively using both Welsh and English and at least one other international language supports learners to be active and successful citizens of Wales and the world.
Key links with other Areas
Developing effective communication and literacy skills as well as learning about etymology within this Area should facilitate progression in all areas of learning and experience by giving learners better access to information, concepts and terminology.
British Sign Language (BSL) can do all the things other languages can do and deaf BSL users can use it across all Areas. BSL has higher-level vocabulary for academic subject areas. For practitioners who are aware of BSL regional variations, resources such as the Scottish Sensory Centre’s BSL Glossaries of Curriculum Terms (SSC) can be a useful starting point when teaching their learners cross-curricular vocabulary.
Expressive Arts disciplines can be used as a vehicle for learners to develop languages, literacy and communication including through visual literacy, creative thinking and creative writing, understanding audience and purpose and adapting language for audience, performance poetry, drama, film, multimedia, role play and song. Experiences of literature in all its forms across these two Areas enable the learner to develop cultural empathy and sensitivity.
Sign poetry, Deaf theatre, Deaf comedy, Deaf visual arts and visual vernacular can enhance learning in Expressive Arts as well as in BSL, and can be used to heighten awareness of Deaf culture.
These two Areas link together to provide learners with the skills to effectively communicate which in turn provide a foundation for developing healthy relationships. Physical and cognitive development will impact on the acquisition of speech and language and the development of fine motor movements, such as handwriting. Literacy skills allow learners to explore texts related to health and well-being. Reading and writing for pleasure also provides opportunities to improve the learner’s sense of well-being.
Skills in BSL can allow learners to express themselves effectively, to be open to other people’s points of view and to develop positive relationships. They enable deaf BSL users’ self-advocacy and can help mitigate the risk of isolation, exclusion and frustration that deaf people may face.
Learning and teaching in health and well-being can improve both the awareness of Deaf culture and the understanding of issues surrounding disability rights, minority languages and recognition of BSL.
Languages and literature play a vital role in identity and can help to shape and influence the development of communities and societies. Literature provides valuable evidence for, and can be a focus of, enquiries in humanities. Learners can explore literature from a range of cultures and societies, in the past and present, from their locality, Wales and the world.
Learning about the history of BSL and about deaf people in history can help contribute to a better understanding of Deaf identity and Deaf culture today, locally, nationally and internationally. Learners can explore the concepts of justice, equality and rights through learning about Deaf culture and BSL.
Songs and rhymes can be used to teach early numeracy in all languages. Finding and applying patterns for problem-solving is a skill required for progress in these two Areas.
Learning BSL numerals and learning to sign quantities, time and money, for example, can help support and consolidate conceptual understanding of mathematics. One-handed BSL counting systems can provide insight into different number bases.
Digital communication and computer languages offer opportunities for links to reinforce learning across these two Areas. Learners apply literacy skills such as instructional and observational language in Science and Technology, as well as accessing and producing texts and accurately using technical and scientific vocabulary. Design communication skills bring these two Areas together both in developing learners’ design thinking as well as communicating their ideas to others.
Because BSL is a visual language, learning and teaching through it can help support and consolidate learners’ conceptual understanding in science and technology. Digital communication offers opportunities to reinforce learning in both BSL and science and technology.
Local, national and international contexts in this Area
Learning in this Area should inspire and enable learners to:
- become multilingual, able to use Welsh, English and at least one international language, and develop an openness to and curiosity about all languages and cultures of the world
- enjoy learning languages and develop a positive perception of themselves as users of those languages
- competently utilise the language(s) and culture(s) of their homes and communities and use these as a foundation for subsequent language learning
- have a firm foundation in Welsh and English to build on when learning other languages and when broadening their understanding of national and global contexts
- reflect on their personal and local linguistic heritage
- become knowledgeable about the diversity of local, national and international linguistic and cultural heritage
- develop their own sense of linguistic identity within their locality, Wales and the wider world. Whether learners and their families have been born in Wales or not, the learners being educated in a school in Wales will over time develop a relationship with Wales and their own sense of Welsh identity as well as with the wider world
- immerse themselves in local, national and international cultures and languages through visits, engaging with people locally and globally and connecting digitally
- foster an understanding of the culture and identity of those around them, to develop mutual respect and social cohesion
- develop an appreciation of literature, inspired by writers and creators of Wales and the wider world
Careers and work-related experiences in this Area
CWRE enables learners to become increasingly aware of how skills developed in this Area will support them in adapting to various situations and audiences. Learners should begin to listen and respond to others with increasing appropriateness. This can develop to enable learners to establish positive working relationships with a diverse range of people. As learners gain confidence in using their language, literacy and communication skills, schools and settings should encourage them to apply and develop these skills through CWRE.
Schools and settings should create opportunities to develop an understanding of literacy in the workplace, including the use of vocabulary associated with work. Examples include names of jobs, acronyms and vocation-specific terminology. As learners accumulate this vocabulary and as they develop confidence in their communication skills, they can begin to articulate effectively their opinions on their career aspirations and effectively seek advice and guidance in decision-making.
Learners should become increasingly aware of how body language and alternative methods of communication are important in a diverse and inclusive workforce. As learners’ communication skills mature, they can become aware of their rights and responsibilities in the world of work and more confident in challenging negative behaviour.
Learning languages enables access to a broad range of careers and work-related opportunities in local, regional and international contexts. Employers value a knowledge of languages as this can support them in trading internationally, establishing Wales on the global economic landscape. Learners should also be aware of the increasing demand for Welsh in the workplace, as Wales works towards the target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Human rights education and diversity in this Area
Practitioners should use the opportunities within this Area to foster and develop learners’ respect and empathy for others’ languages and identities, while celebrating and respecting similarities and differences. Multilingualism within the classroom should be seen as an opportunity to raise learners’ awareness of diversity and promote the cultural wealth of the school and community.
Schools should seek involvement with the home and other settings and to promote partnerships. Supporting the development of home languages can help to promote and develop trust, appreciation and respect across languages and cultures.
Relationships and sexuality education in this Area
Speaking, listening, responding and building empathy are skills that are fundamental to all RSE issues, including friendship building, seeking advice and in future, developing healthy sexual relationships. This Area presents opportunities for learners to make sense of what they hear, read, see and feel when they engage with literature, different media and the world around them. This includes the ability to analyse and explore in a range of media, style and genres. In the context of RSE this could include exploring body images or relationship stereotypes in cartoons, films, poetry, fiction, documentaries and increasingly in digital platforms of communication and storytelling.
This Area also enables learners to experience and respond to a range of often challenging and sensitive RSE topics as listeners, viewers, readers, narrators and creators. As such, it has the potential to offer safe, inclusive and creative ways to explore RSE topics from diverse cultural and linguistic perspectives. Learners can consider how key RSE themes are explored in literature and shaped by language. This can help learners to start to think critically about how relationship, gender, sexual identity and body norms play out in different cultures and communities, including their own. Exploring RSE through literature can also help learners develop awareness and understanding of diversity and difference.
British Sign Language (BSL)
Videos are available on Education Wales’ British Sign Language playlist (YouTube) to help learners and their families understand more about the Curriculum for Wales and BSL in the curriculum.
BSL versions of the four purposes, the Languages, Literacy and Communication statements of what matters and the BSL descriptions of learning are also being developed. We are also working to develop a BSL glossary to accompany the curriculum.
British Sign Language (BSL) is a visual language with its own grammar and lexicon. It is an indigenous minority language and the first language of many deaf children and young people in Wales. The UK Government recognised BSL as a language in its own right in March 2003. The Welsh Assembly Government formally recognised BSL in January 2004.
The Curriculum for Wales has been developed to be accessible to all. Anyone can learn BSL regardless of their medium of education or home language. This includes learners with additional learning needs (ALN).
This guidance is for practitioners involved in designing a curriculum that includes BSL for deaf BSL users, as well as for others learning BSL as a second, third or subsequent language. It should be considered in the context of the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience (Area).
For the purpose of this guidance, the term ‘deaf’ includes all forms of deafness, regardless of personal circumstance or culture, for example, whether the individual uses BSL as a first language or prefers to talk orally, or whether they have cochlear implants or hearing aids. It is important to remember, however, that different people choose to identify with different terms when describing their deafness. Those terms are down to personal choice and practitioners should discuss this with learners and their families.
The four purposes
Learning BSL can contribute to realising all four purposes of the curriculum.
Ambitious, capable learners
Through learning BSL, hearing and deaf learners of all ages can develop their ability and ambition to communicate using sign within deaf and hearing communities. Learning BSL can deepen learners’ understanding of human communication more generally and strengthen knowledge of how languages work, providing a firm foundation for further language learning. Insights that can be derived through learning BSL include becoming aware of the multi-modality of human communication and of the role played by visual language.
As is the case with any language system, studying BSL allows learners to develop their understanding of how communication is central to the human condition. Similarly, working out how BSL is put together can also support metacognition. The knowledge and skills acquired in BSL are of value and relevance for immediate and longer-term use in learning, life and work.
Enterprising, creative contributors
Effective BSL skills can help learners make sense of concepts across the curriculum, for example by enabling them to articulate their reasoning when solving problems and analysing information. Effective multilingual skills deepen this ability as they enable learners to respond in many more contexts.
Visual communication encourages creative thinking and learners must be willing to experiment, take risks, step up to challenges and apply strategies to resolve communication issues. These skills can build learners’ confidence, allowing them to grasp new opportunities and to adapt to different roles.
Ethical, informed citizens
As learners progress in their ability to understand and use BSL, they can also develop a range of related skills. Learning BSL can encourage learners to step beyond familiar cultural boundaries and develop new ways of expressing and negotiating meaning, allowing them to contribute to the development of a global society that is inclusive for deaf and hearing people. This can include, for example, addressing issues surrounding disability rights, minority languages, recognition of BSL and communication through technology.
Learning and teaching should help develop awareness and understanding of the cultures and identities of deaf and hearing communities where BSL is a first language or is routinely used for daily communication. This can include an awareness of regional variation in BSL.
Healthy, confident individuals
Communication and well-being are inextricably linked. Effective language skills help us to independently manage everyday life. BSL skills and being part of the Deaf community can enhance deaf learners’ self-identity. Skills in BSL can allow learners to express themselves effectively, to be open to other people’s points of view and to develop positive relationships.
As a visual language, BSL allows users to express a wide range of emotions and feelings in a more nuanced way. Visual communication can help build greater confidence and break through communication barriers.
There is a BSL version of the four purposes to use with learners.
Cross-curricular skills and skills integral to the four purposes
A school curriculum must develop the mandatory cross-curricular skills and the integral skills that underpin the four purposes of the curriculum. The following are some key aspects to consider when designing learning and teaching for BSL.
Learning in BSL and digital skills can support each other. Learners can develop the skills to communicate remotely in BSL, find and use BSL resources online, and create and share their own digital BSL materials. Learners should have the opportunity to explore technology best suited to their communication needs.
BSL is a visual language and does not have a written form. BSL texts are created by filming sign language.
Fluent BSL skills can offer a foundation for literacy in other languages.
Learning BSL numerals and signs for quantities, time and money can help develop and consolidate learners’ conceptual understanding. One-handed BSL counting systems can provide insight into different number bases.
Creativity and innovation
Learning BSL can provide opportunities to experiment with and use language creatively in order to give learners the confidence to take risks, to express opinions and to generate ideas in a plurilingual context. This can lead to innovative outcomes. They can develop their creativity through opportunities to create and perform BSL literature. Creative expression can enhance learners’ understanding of key concepts as well as of methods of expression.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
Receptive and expressive skills in BSL can contribute to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving. As learners’ BSL skills and cultural agility develop, so too does their ability to communicate with others. This allows them to understand situations, to articulate ideas and to develop responses to problems.
Learners can develop their personal effectiveness and self-awareness when learning and using BSL, which can in turn support learning across the whole curriculum. Providing a language-rich and plurilingual environment can support learners to reflect on their own strengths in language use. They can identify their own areas of development in order to enhance their language and communication skills.
Planning and organising
Learning BSL can help learners to develop the ability to organise ideas, make effective plans and develop creative works. They will also have opportunities to develop skills in selecting and using appropriate sources and information. Learners can reflect on and improve their work through opportunities to present plans and implement solutions.
Progression in BSL
Some learners acquire BSL from birth, others begin learning BSL later. This may be reflected in their progression. Progression for those learning BSL as a third or subsequent language may be more akin to progression in international languages learned at school.
Research studies have shown that acquisition of sign languages follows a similar pattern to the acquisition of spoken languages, despite the difference in modality between them. This is also true for the development of specific aspects of language like phonology, vocabulary and narratives.
For spoken languages, phonology refers to the way that the sounds of a language are put together to form words. For sign languages, phonology refers to how the elements of a sign are put together: how handshape, location, movement, orientation and non-manual features are combined to form signs. As is the case with those learning spoken languages, phonological development in deaf children who are learning to sign takes time, and learners are likely to make mistakes in the early stages of language development. Learners often substitute handshapes that are difficult to make with handshapes that are easier to make. They may also simplify movements.
Children acquiring sign language typically produce their first sign at around 11 months of age. By the time they are 18 months old, they can know around 70–80 signs. By the age of 3 they are able to understand and produce around 500 signs. As with spoken languages, there are external factors that influence vocabulary acquisition, such as the extent and quality of the sign language to which they are exposed. In addition, the main carer’s BSL fluency also has an impact on the development path and size of the learner’s BSL vocabulary.
Although vocabulary acquisition follows a similar timetable in both sign and spoken languages, it is important to remember that hearing children and young people will often pick up new words through incidental learning. They will overhear conversations and pick up words from the television or other media. They will also pick up new words when reading. For sign languages, there are no written forms.
Children and young people learning sign language, therefore, need to look at people to learn new signs. This means it is incredibly important for them to be exposed to good models of sign language on a regular basis. It also means that they should have access to signing environments where they can see other conversations. There are television programmes that either are presented in BSL or have an in-vision interpreter, and schools and settings can help facilitate learners’ access to these.
Vocabulary size (whether in a signed or spoken language) is an important predictor of subsequent development of literacy.
BSL research suggests that narrative development is similar in sign and spoken languages, with deaf sign language users starting to produce narratives at around 2 years of age. Being able to put together a narrative verbally (whether via sign or speech) is an important predictor of good literacy skills, thus young signers should be introduced to narratives at an early age, particularly by good signing models.
UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) has more information on BSL research.
BSL progression and the Curriculum for Wales
There is a BSL version of the statements of what matters to use with learners.
Common to all learners in all schools and settings are descriptions of learning that show how learners progress in relation to the ‘Languages connect us’ statement of what matters. Progression in this aspect is particularly relevant to those learning BSL as it features:
- identities, which can include identity as a deaf person and BSL user in Wales and in the wider world
- belonging, which can include belonging to the Deaf community (local and wider) as well as to other communities
- culture, which can include Deaf culture as well as other cultures
- mediation, communicating meaning from one person to another, which can include within BSL or from one language to another
- etymology and language evolution, which can include the origin of individual signs, changes over time and the history and status of BSL
- language variation, which can include regional lexical variation in BSL. Welsh regional signs are of social and political as well as linguistic importance to the Welsh Deaf community. People who use both BSL and Welsh may use different signs and lip patterns.
References to translanguaging in the descriptions of learning have a particular relevance to deaf BSL users whose simultaneous progression in BSL and Welsh/English may mean they are more able than their hearing peers to move between languages and cultures. Their ability to understand that words and signs do not always have direct equivalence, and to recognise different interpretations and explain these to others, is recognised here as a valuable skill.
For the other statements of what matters in this Area, descriptions of learning show a learning journey in BSL along a continuum from progression step 1 to progression step 5. A learner who has acquired BSL from birth may progress along the continuum at a faster pace than a learner who has had little or no experience of BSL before starting formal education. Older learners beginning to learn BSL will also start at progression step 1 and continue towards progression step 5. The pace at which they progress along the continuum will differ according to their individual ability and context.
As with other languages, progression for those learning BSL as an international language will not match learners who use BSL at school and elsewhere as one of their main languages. Care should be taken to ensure that progression for more proficient BSL users is not hindered.
Progression for learners who complete a short course in BSL, such as a BSL Level 1 course, will be reflected in the descriptions of learning for early progression steps.
Learner progression along a continuum of learning from ages 3 to 16 is central to the Curriculum for Wales. Assessment plays a fundamental role in enabling each individual learner to make progress at an appropriate pace, ensuring they are supported and challenged accordingly.
There are no statutory assessments for BSL in Wales.
However, a range of normed BSL assessment tools are available for deaf BSL users:
- The BSL Receptive Skills Test (BSL-SRT): Assessment primarily of BSL morphology for children aged 3 to 12
- The BSL Production Skills Test: Narrative Skills BSL-PT: Assessment of BSL narrative skills for children aged 4 to 11
- The BSL Vocabulary Test (VT): Computer-based assessment of signed-language understanding and production for children aged 4 to 15 years
The assessments are suitable for BSL in all parts of the UK. Further information about these assessments is available through the DCAL assessment portal (UCL).
Cross-cutting themes for curriculum design
Schools and practitioners should have a methodology for designing a curriculum that incorporates, where appropriate, opportunities for consideration of cross-cutting elements.
Human rights and children’s rights
In addition to the curriculum guidance for human rights and children’s rights, for those involved in designing a curriculum that includes BSL the following information is intended to support knowledge and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The UNCRC states that children have the right to use their own language and culture even if these are not shared by most people in the country where they live. BSL is the first language of many deaf children and young people.
Children have the right to give their opinions freely on issues that affect them. BSL users should be able to use BSL to be fully involved in the decisions that affect them. The UNCRC says that adults should listen to and take children seriously. Children also have the right to share freely with others what they learn, think and feel. BSL can facilitate this.
Children have the right to get information from the internet, radio, television, newspapers, books and other sources. As such, learning and teaching can support deaf learners to access appropriate information in BSL and in other languages they understand.
Children’s education should help them fully develop their personalities, talents and abilities. It should teach them to understand their own rights, to respect other people’s rights and cultures and to understand and respect differences. BSL can be used as a medium to achieve this.
Every child also has the right to rest, relax, play and to take part in cultural and creative activities. Having more learners and practitioners able to use BSL can help support inclusivity.
The UNCRC articles are available in BSL (YouTube)
It may also be useful for practitioners to be aware of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which refers specifically to sign languages 7 times across 5 articles.
Local, national and international contexts
The local, national and international contexts provide key perspectives for learners and are of particular importance in supporting them to realise the four purposes. Through developing their understanding of local, national and international contexts in BSL learning, learners can:
- become multilingual, able to use BSL, Welsh, English and at least one other international language, which could be an international sign language such as American sign language (ASL)
- develop an openness to and curiosity about all languages and cultures of the world
- enjoy learning languages and develop a positive perception of themselves as users of those languages
- use the languages and cultures of their homes and communities, including Deaf culture, as a foundation for subsequent language learning
- have a firm foundation in BSL, Welsh and English to build on when learning other languages and when broadening their understanding of national and global contexts
- reflect on their personal and local linguistic heritage, including regional BSL variants
- become knowledgeable about the diversity of local, national and international linguistic and cultural heritage
- develop their own sense of linguistic identity within their locality, Wales and the wider world
- immerse themselves in local, national and international cultures and languages through visits, engaging with people locally and globally, and connecting digitally
- foster an understanding of the culture and identities of those around them, to develop mutual respect and social cohesion
Careers and work-related experiences
When designing a curriculum that includes BSL, schools and settings should incorporate learning about careers and work-related experiences that enables learners to:
- develop knowledge of the enhanced career opportunities available through BSL
- understand that being bilingual or multilingual can open doors in the world of work
- develop effective communication skills in all their languages and develop confidence to interact with others and build relationships in all places of work
- develop BSL associated with work
- explore how their language skills can benefit them as they prepare for agile and flexible working in Wales and beyond
- have role models who use BSL in a variety of careers
Considerations for provision
When planning, designing and implementing a curriculum, consideration should be given to the nature of BSL provision, resources, learners’ progression and the range of linguistic and cultural experiences offered.
Both deaf and hearing learners can benefit from a language-rich environment where the status of BSL as one of Wales’ indigenous languages is recognised and where BSL can be used across the whole school environment and throughout the school day, as appropriate for the learners.
Using evidence and expertise
BSL learning and teaching should be informed by sound evidence and expertise including:
- the Deaf community as well as BSL tutors and Teachers of the Deaf
- understanding from high-quality educational research and evidence
- relevant information about learners and their communities
- learning from professional inquiry
- evidence and expertise shared through local, cluster, regional and national networks
- partnership with further and higher education
- professional learning
Curriculum co-construction will involve working with:
- the Deaf community
- Teachers of the Deaf and other practitioners
- parents, carers and stakeholders
- other organisations, services and agencies
- schools, settings and further and higher education institutions
Introducing BSL as an international language
The ‘Specific considerations’ section for the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area includes considerations for selecting which international language to teach. Additional considerations for BSL may include:
- supporting progression in BSL for children who have deaf parents, siblings and friends who use BSL
- helping children communicate with deaf classmates who use BSL
Schools should involve learners, parents and governors in the decision-making process.
Questions for practitioner reflection
Questions are provided below to help schools and settings reflect on their curriculum and assessment planning and design, as well as on their learning and teaching.
- What is the current linguistic landscape of our school?
- How many BSL users are there?
- How do we work with the Deaf community?
- How can we best use our linguistic landscape to help our learners make progress in all their languages?
- How do we ensure that those learning BSL continue to progress from their different starting points?
- How do we provide for systematic development of BSL?
- How do we assess learners’ progression in BSL?
- How do we ensure that a BSL language-rich environment becomes a model for improving learners’ BSL skills?
- How do we provide breadth and depth in BSL learning?
- How do we provide deaf BSL users with opportunities to progress in Welsh, English and at least one international language, as well as in BSL?
- How do we support deaf BSL users’ progression across the curriculum through BSL?
- How do we provide opportunities for learners to use BSL in a wide range of contexts, for example through meeting with deaf role models, engaging with local BSL communities and becoming involved with events for deaf people and activities?
- How do we ensure the quality of BSL learning and teaching, support and interaction?
- How do we work with the Deaf community and outside organisations to support curriculum and assessment planning and design as well as learning and teaching?
- How do we support BSL users with additional learning needs, for example through tactile signing (hand-over-hand signing) or adjusting the visual frame of signing?
Considerations for culture, literature and creativity
- How do we identify BSL literature for learners?
- How do learners access BSL literature?
- How do we provide learners with a wide range of BSL literature to foster their enjoyment of purposeful viewing, and encourage them to explore literature in BSL and other languages?
- How do we provide opportunities to experience events for deaf people such as sports, cultural events and arts events?
Dictionary of British Sign Language (BSL resources)
Scottish Sensory Centre’s BSL Glossaries of Curriculum Terms (SSC)
Descriptions of learning