GIN ye’re a bairn in Embrae or Glesga, we’re noo in the lang Sunday aifternuin o the sowl – the lest week o the simmer hoalidays. The bairns o places the likes o Perth, Heilan, Aiberdeen an the Borders aw hae schuils that stert back a week or so later. Mak the maist o it, weans!

If ye’re in yer fift or saxt year, tho, it wisnae the stert o term that wis the biggest date in yer August calendar. The big, reid circle wis aroon lest Tuesday, 6th August, Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) results dey.

Whan A wis 16, that dey meant sittin bi the windae waitin oan the postie. He wis fair delichtit tae be a rock star fir the youth o Kinross fir ae dey. It wis afore smert phones, so me an ma pals yaised near oor hail SMS allooance textin tae see wha’d goat their results. O coorse, it’s aw chynge noo, wi fowk able tae get the results oan the SQA app, whiles as early as the wee sma oors.

Whan it cams tae auld yins lik me, ane o the maist common phrases whan talkin aboot schuils or exams is ‘O coorse, it’s aw chynge noo…’. Fowk feel that in thir dey exams wis richt an proper – no ower easy, no ower sair – an aw chynge sin then is wrang an agin God.

But chynge is pairt o the schuil system. Een the maist enthusiastic conservative eddicationalists dinnae claim that schuil exams suid hae bin stellt in 1872 whan the Education (Scotland) Act wis brocht in. Schuilin maun chynge wi the shiftin needs o society. Jist as weil: this paper disnae tak column submíssions oan sclates.

Some recent chynges is muckle an sweepin, like the shift tae the Curriculum fir Excellence in 2013. But the introduction o new subjects is important an aw. Back in 2014 the SQA introducit an award i the Scots Leid fir the first time. Haein the recognítion that learners or native speakers cuid get pynts taewards acceptance fir the university or college frae learnin or kennen Scots his a braw psychological effect. An this year, the Authority is bringin in twa British Sign Leid (BSL) awards an aw. Frae neist week, fir the first time, students wull can dae BSL qualifications up tae Higher-equivalent at the schuil.

Thae exams is designed fir learners, an wull include no jist content oan vocab an grammar, símilar tae whit ye’d dae in a French or German Naitional or Higher, but alsae material fir tae learn students the culture an heritage o the Deaf community.

This cultural learnin is vital tae an unnerstaunin o the leid. A’m a BSL learner masel, daein exams fir adult learners. Fir a stert, the verra name o ‘Deaf’ is a contestit pynt, an no yin that his an equivalent in Scots yet. The Scots word ‘deif’ ainly refers tae ‘fowk wha cannae hear’, but the term ‘Deaf’ means a community o fowk, a linguistic group wha hae BSL as a first or important leid. Gin ye’re tae learn BSL in the wey Mr So-An-So learned ye the Latin back at the schuil, ye’ve nae chaunce. BSL warks awthegither dífferent tae spoken leids. It’s no jist that the grammar is dífferent, but the hale culture o the leid is dífferent.

Ane o the pynts that hearin fowk fund surprisin aboot sign leids is that they arnae mapped tae spoken leids – they’re naitural leids o thir ain. Varieties group aroon whaur Deaf Schuils wis (afore they sterted tae be shut doon whan the government policy shiftit tae ‘mainstreaming’ Deaf pupils). In Glesga, fir exaimple, a BSL yaiser micht be able tae identifí a body’s relígion frae their leid. Glaswegians o a certain age went tae aither the Catholic or the Protestant Deaf schuil, ilk wi a recognisable variety. Whit ye micht cry ‘Catholic Glaswegian BSL’ is influenced bi the Irish Sign Leid o the nuns that did the teachin, whiles ‘Protestant Glaswegian BSL’ isnae.

In Scots leid campaignin, we’re sair trauchled wi the question ‘But is it a language?’ But BSL campaigners hae a twa-fauld exclusion. BSL wisnae een recognisit as a leid an studiet linguistically by the (hearin) academe or the 1980s. An noo, in spite o aw the lowps the leid his made in terms o recognítion, they still hae tae warsle their wey intae minorty leid discussions. In ma experience, BSL yaisers see thirsels as a minority leid group – it’s hearin fowk that haud wi thinkin o them as disabililty group. As ae deif person telt me, gin an English monoglot fund thirsel in the middle o China an they cuidnae communicate, would thon body be ‘a disabled person’?

Sae, awrabest tae the BSL learners stertin thir studies in the neist fortnicht. An luck tae aw the BSL yaisers daein thir Naitionals an Highers through the Engish leid. We can aw howp that this new award is the stert o a braw chynge in eddication, an that the leid can tak its richt place as a unique culture in Scotland’s culture – up wi Gaelic or Scots. Oh, an a personal challenge tae awbody readin this: nivver let by anither statement aboot Scotland’s minority leids that disnae mention BSL. Whan it cams tae minoritised leids, we’re better thegither.