level 1 award in bsl

Level 1 Award in BSL

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The Level 1 Award in BSL (British Sign Language) is an Ofqual regulated qualification administered by Signature. Many providers are offering both online and classroom courses to suit students needs.

The British Sign Language level 1 content is split into 3 modules:  

  • Module 101 focuses on greetings and is a gentle introduction to BSL
  • Module 102 focuses on widening your vocabulary so you can use BSL in conversations
  • Module 103 focuses on improving your fluency so you can communicate in BSL about everyday Life.

The modules are designed to help you gain the basic skills and confidence in signing and understanding the signing of others.

Module 1:

  • Greetings, fingerspelling
  • Deaf Awareness
  • Numbers (people, time, money and dates)
  • Family
  • Weather
  • Travel and directions

Module 2:

  • How to ask/answer questions
  • Using facial expressions in BSL
  • BSL structure
  • Describing people, animals and objects
  • Hobbies and activities
  • Food and Drink
  • Number (age, time, money and calendars)
  • Work and school signs

Module 3:

  • Handshapes and placement
  • Conversation skills
  • Check your understanding
  • Assessment practice*

Accredited or Regulated?

Be aware that in order to achieve the Level 1 Award in BSL, your course needs to be regulated by Ofqual. That means you need to complete the recommended 60+ hours tutor guided hours plus 20+ hours of personal study.  It doesn’t matter if you do your course online or face to face in a classroom, the key takeaway is that you need to complete tutor guided hours. However, there is nothing stopping you from completing an online course and then contacting a centre to complete your assessments.

Level 1 Award in British Sign language (BSL) Studies

The Level 1 Award in British Sign Language Studies is an Ofqual regulated qualification administered by the other awarding body, the Institute of British Sign Language or iBSL.

The certificate is also split into three modules:

IBSL1A1: focuses on receptive skills (understanding what is being signed to you)
IBSL1A2: focuses on descriptive skills
IBSL1A3: focuses on conversational skills

The modules are designed to help you learn the skills needed to communicate competently in BSL.

Similar topics (such as fingerspelling, greetings and so on) are covered on the iBSL curriculum. However, there is a heavier focus on understanding Deaf culture and linguistics.

The only real difference between Signature and iBSL is behind the scenes – more administration is required for iBSL qualifications. This is relevant to learners because centres may decide to pass on the costs to you, the learner making courses slightly more expensive.

centres Offering the Level 1 Award in BSL:


Bristol College, College Green Centre

BSL Courses

B.S.L Training classroom courses in Chatham or Maidstone. An online (via Zoom) also offered.

CityLit this is a classroom course, London

DeafAction this is a classroom course, Edinburgh. An online course (via Zoom) also offered.

Deaf Active this is a classroom course, Liverpool

Fylde Coast BSL Centre online via zoom

Heathlands School this is a classroom course, St Albans

Me Sign this is a classroom course, Stockton-on Tees

Remark this is a classroom course, London

SignSay online via zoom

Simply Signed this is classroom courses, Harlow. Online courses (via Zoom) also offered.

Teachmesign this is classroom course, London


Deaf Solutions

Is BSL difficult to learn?

If you’re interested in learning British Sign Language, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, BSL is a three-dimensional language, which means you need to understand how to use hand gestures, facial expressions, and a different grammatical structure to convey meaning. This can make it challenging to learn by yourself from an app, book or YouTube clips. This is why it’s important to learn in a structured with a qualified professional. Secondly, as BSL is a visual language, you need to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible – for example, by attending BSL classes or events and by meeting deaf people. By keeping these things in mind, you can become a proficient BSL user.

How long does it take to learn BSL?

Classroom based BSL courses run for 32 weeks and usually follow the academic calendar, so start in September and finish the following May or June. This is particularly useful for parents as sessions do not normally run during school holidays.

Online courses, where you have live weekly sessions will be shorter so theoretically you could complete a regulated BSL course and gain your Level 1 Award in BSL in less than 6 months.

A few course providers run a BSL level 1 ‘intensive course’ where you learn for 4 – 5 hours per day over a couple of weeks. While this might seem a great idea, one downside is that you may forget signs from the Level 1 curriculum, (there are a lot of signs to learn on Level 1). Ultimately, you need to give yourself time and allow for your muscle memory to develop so you can sign competently.

Many non-regulated course providers prey on the fact that many new learners think learning BSL is really easy. While it is easy to learn how to fingerspell or how to sign your name, students need to go through the four levels of competency in order to be competent at signing, even at a basic level.

What can I do with BSL Level 1?

Achieving a Level 1 award in BSL qualification is the equivalent of achieving a pass at GCSE. Under the new grading system, that means achieving a grade 4 or above. Level 1 is a gateway qualification, so it enables you to go on and do the higher qualifications for roles such as: a Communication Support Worker (usually BSL Level 3), a Teacher for the Deaf (usually Level 3) or as an interpreter (Level 6).

if you are not ready to commit to a lengthy course why not try a BSL Basics course instead! There are plenty of online providers that provide content in bite-size manageable chunks. Alternatively you can check out our study guides and tips.