Last Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2022

British Sign Language (BSL) - Toolkit for Practitioners

What is this?

This British Sign Language (BSL) Toolkit sets out the key national legislation and General Teaching Council for Scotland standards which practitioners should be aware of when working with BSL users. Information to help practitioners understand BSL, Deaf culture and identity is provided throughout the Toolkit alongside some of the key definitions and terms used when working with parents and families.

Some of the barriers that BSL users may encounter when trying to engage with education are considered in the Toolkit. These are accompanied by suggested ideas and reflective questions for consideration on what might help address and overcome these barriers.

Who is this for?

This Toolkit is for practitioners who work with:

  • Deaf children, young people and their families
  • Parents and carers who use British Sign Language (BSL) and Tactile BSL in education

'[Deaf] Children and young people who use British Sign Language (BSL) will get the support they need at all stages of their learning, so that they can reach their full potential; parents who use British Sign Language will have the same opportunities as other parents to be fully involved in their child's education; and more pupils will be able to learn British Sign Language at school'.

(British Sign Language National Plan, 2017-2023, p12, School Education goals 16-24)


What was done?

A British Sign Language (BSL) Toolkit was developed for practitioners who support all Deaf children, young people and their families, parents and carers who use BSL, tactile BSL or who may consider using it, in education.


Data from focus groups, interviews and an online survey suggests that there may be differences in the priorities and perspectives of Deaf parents and practitioners in respect to their children’s learning.  Reasons for these differences could be due to a lack of understanding of the needs and barriers of Deaf children and their families.

Practitioners who may not have previously worked with BSL signing families may also be unaware of how to access support.  Additionally, they may not have an understanding of Deaf culture, identity and the barriers encountered by BSL signing families when trying to support their children’s learning.

Improving outcomes for BSL signing families remains a key priority across Scotland’s political and educational landscape.  In order to achieve this, there is an ongoing need to ensure that the workforce has the appropriate values, competencies, skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications to work effectively with all learners, parents and families.

How to use this Toolkit to improve practice?

  • This Toolkit can be used to help support practitioners to meet the challenges of raising attainment for all and ensuring every child and family has the same opportunity to thrive.
  • Practitioners should engage with the various sections of the Toolkit, including the reflective questions to evaluate and improve their practice where appropriate.


PDF file: British Sign Language (BSL) - Toolkit for Practitioners - Executive summary (334 KB)

PDF file: Section 1 - Introduction
PDF file: Section 2 - Background
PDF file: Section 3 - Terms and definitions
PDF file: Section 4 - Understanding British Sign Language, Deaf culture and Deaf identity
PDF file: Section 5 - Key national legislation and standards
PDF file: Section 6 - Workforce development
PDF file: Section 7 - Engaging with education, settings and schools
PDF file: Section 8 - Health and wellbeing
PDF file: Section 9 - Supporting transitions

PDF file: British Sign Language (BSL) - Toolkit for Practitioners - Full document (2.4 MB)