Deaf awareness charity Signature has advocated that a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE should hold as high a status as signing qualifications possess in some other countries' curricula.
Secondary teachers may soon be able to teach signing to pupils as a GCSE subject, with Signature currently developing a qualification for BSL at this level, which it is also working with exams regulator Ofqual to gain approval for.
Presently, the definition in England of a modern language - as one that can be spoken or written - is a classification that would exclude BSL.
Yet Signature nonetheless wants BSL to be granted equivalent status to a modern foreign language at GCSE level in the new national curriculum, BBC News has reported.
The charity pointed out that sign language is part of national curricula in other countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland and argued that it deserves the same status here as is afforded to minority languages like Welsh and Gaelic.
It claimed this would make BSL more mainstream and thereby give deaf and hearing-impaired pupils more equal access to education and employment opportunities.
Signature's communications director Paul Parsons explained: "If deaf students are able to gain a qualification in their first language whilst still at school, they will feel more comfortable and confident about going to university.
"We need to do all we can to create an environment of inclusion, widen participation and increase access before it's too late."
Mr Parsons also asserted that if one of the main reasons modern foreign languages are taught in schools is to add long-term economic value, then there is no reason BSL should be denied this status.
A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) commented that while no GCSE exists in BSL at present, there are a number of qualifications already offered in this subject right up to degree level.
All new GCSEs introduced in the new national curriculum would count towards a 'best eight' performance measure intended to ensure schools retain a broad curriculum.
The DfE spokesman said this could potentially include a BSL GCSE, providing an exam board creates one deemed by Ofqual to be of a high enough standard.
Posted by Tim Colman