1+2 languages policy - local authority survey 2021: findings

Findings of a 2021 survey of local authorities on progress to implement the 1+2 languages policy in schools. The key finding is that nearly all primary and secondary schools now deliver language learning from P1 through to the end of the Broad General Education.

6. Barriers to implementation

We asked local authorities to elaborate on the main reasons for why their primary and secondary schools were not providing a full L2 entitlement or an L3 entitlement. Many of the reasons given were in line with those previously reported by the 2018-19 survey.

6.1 Primary schools

Approx. 31% of primary schools (533) reported not providing a full L2 entitlement (29% partial and 2% no entitlement). The main reason given was 'competing priorities', with the principal cause being what was considered to be an already overcrowded curriculum. Schools remarked this meant there was a lack of time available to develop and deliver the requisite progressive language learning experience from P1 to P7.

Other common reasons reported by these schools included:

  • A lack of teacher confidence to deliver routine classroom language learning, as well as discrete language lessons.
  • Newly-qualified teachers entering the system not being sufficiently trained during pre-service to deliver a language as part of their classroom practice.
  • Inconsistencies in L2 provision in schools where there are long term vacant posts, and in rural / single-staffed schools where the class teacher has not undergone language training.

Approx. 36% of primary schools (623) reported not providing an L3 entitlement. Responses pointed out that there remained a need for supplementary training / upskilling for teaching staff. Similar to the L2, competing priorities and lack of curricular space were also reported as reasons that providing an L3 was not a current focus.

All local authorities also reported that the curriculum focus on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic – which was primarily based on literacy, numeracy and health & wellbeing – had led to a reduced emphasis on maintaining language learning at both L2 and L3 levels.

6.2 Secondary schools

Approx. 30% of secondary schools (95) reported not providing a full L2 entitlement (albeit all providing it partially). The main reason a number of these schools cited was that they operated a curriculum structure that allows learners to withdraw from language learning after S2, instead of continuing to the end of S3 in line with the 1+2 policy.

Other reasons reported by these schools included:

  • A minority of schools allowing learners to choose their L2 from the start of S1, instead of continuing the L2 taught in primary school and recognising the level of proficiency achieved so far.
  • A minority of schools being unable to provide adequate period allocations for language learning.
  • Some schools employing a model where pupils learn a new language in S3, instead of continuing the one taught in S1-S2. These schools advised that this approach allows them to maintain language diversity, with the new language being offered in the belief that it will boost uptake in the senior phase.
  • Some head teachers having differing interpretations of 'learner entitlement' in terms of the 1+2 policy, leading to discrepancies in provision within and across local authorities.

Approx. 12.5% (40) of secondary schools reported not providing an L3 entitlement. Some schools reported that their curriculum design and timetabling in their languages departments were structured in such a way that there was no extra time available in which to deliver an L3 without removing teaching time from the L2. Smaller schools also reported facing challenges in providing an L3 where the staff complement does not allow for the provision of more than one language.



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