[lg policy] Scotland: Academic warns of muddled language strategy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 26 15:43:35 UTC 2013

Academic warns of muddled language strategy
 Andrew Denholm <http://www.heraldscotland.com/andrew-denholm>
Education Correspondent
  Tuesday 26 November 2013

A LEADING academic has issued a warning over the Scottish Government's
"muddled" strategy to increase language learning in primary schools.

 PLANS: The Scottish Government proposes to teach all primary pupils two
modern languages to stem the decline in Highers.

Dr Dan Tierney, a reader in languages at Strathclyde University, believes
the plan is currently unworkable because it lacks national continuity.

The warning comes two years after the Government announced proposals to
teach all primary pupils at least two modern languages in addition to their
mother tongue - known as the 1+2 model.

Since then, the Languages Working Group has recommended 35 improvements,
including better training for teachers and greater support for pupils in
the classroom.

Languages identified for primary schools under the plan include Arabic,
Chinese, French, Gaelic, German, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian,
Spanish and Urdu.

However, Mr Tierney argues that, unless the Scottish Government prioritises
some of these, pupils will arrive at secondary school with a wide variety
of different experiences.

He said: "We need a national policy to provide some clarity over what is
expected from the languages policy otherwise it will end up in a muddle.

"We don't currently know whether French or Spanish or German is to be
prioritised or whether schools should be providing a mix of several
languages. This will become a significant issue for secondary schools when
pupils move up from primary."

Mr Tierney also said the issue was of concern to university teacher
training departments because it was unclear where future demand would lie.

"We cannot predict the languages that teachers will need to be trained in
because councils can go their own way," he added.

The Scottish Government announced its ambitious plans to teach all primary
pupils at least two modern languages after a decline in the number of
pupils taking modern language Higher exams.

Figures for 2011 showed a 4% drop in those sitting French, German and
Italian, with only Spanish showing an increase.

The demise has been blamed on the fact many schools no longer see languages
as compulsory, despite school inspectors calling for them to be a "core
element" in the first three years of secondary. In addition, as part of
cuts to education budgets, two-thirds of local authorities have scrapped
foreign language assistants.

There have also been problems in primary, with The Herald revealing
three-quarters of schools were missing recommended targets for the delivery
of modern languages.

It has been estimated the decline in language learning at Scottish schools
and universities is costing the economy at least half a billion pounds
every year because companies miss out on overseas contracts or inward

The Scottish Government's languages working group recommended children
should begin learning a second language as soon as they start primary
school, rather than primary six, as is now the case. The group also says
children should learn a third language no later than P5 and calls for a
compulsory language qualification for primary teachers.

The Scottish Government has already announced £120,000 to fund pilot
projects to demonstrate ways in which Scottish schools can begin to move
towards the 1+2 model.

The Government has also announced an additional £4m to support the
development of local authority language plans.

However, in recent evidence to the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Parent
Teacher Council said it was concerned there was insufficient resources
available and said teachers did not currently have sufficient skills to
make it work.

Cosla, which represents councils, said it was aware there was a need for
"at least double or triple the previous language funding to assist local
authorities" in taking forward the project.


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