§ Mr. Sheerman
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what steps is he taking to ensure that British Sign Language is adequately taught to deaf children in schools; 
(2) what plans he has to improve (a) access to courses in, and (b) recognition of, British Sign Language teaching. 
§ Jacqui Smith
In addition to being a qualified teacher, all teachers working with classes of pupils who are hearing impaired must undertake a specialist mandatory qualification. In June, following a review of mandatory qualifications undertaken at the request of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Teacher Training Agency issued a new course specification for providers intending to mount courses from September 2001. The criteria laid down for mandatory qualifications in teaching hearing impaired children require a minimum competence in signing equivalent to the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) Stage 1 qualification.
The Department is improving access to courses by contracting with both RNID and CACDP to recruit and train interpreters of British Sign Language. The question of recognition will be explored further with interested parties once the Government have ratified the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.