Language learning in Scotland: a 1 + 2 approach

Report and recommendations from the Languages Working Group on Scotland's language education policy.



1. The success of a 1+2 languages policy is predicated to a very significant extent on the transition that pupils will make from primary to secondary school. Currently, there are serious issues around how effective this transition stage is in terms of language learning. Research conducted by Scotland's National Centre for Languages indicates that up to one third of primary schools who responded have no regular language links with secondary schools in their areas. Associated primary schools which have introduced an element of modern language teaching have not necessarily taught the same languages and to the same level by the time pupils arrive at secondary school. There are issues around teacher confidence and sometimes competence in delivering a modern language in the primary school. The result is that many secondary schools have felt it necessary to make a fresh start to teaching a modern language in S1. In future, the introduction of earlier and additional language learning in primary will require secondary schools to make arrangements which give greater consideration to building on pupils' prior learning.

Primary/secondary articulation

2. A properly implemented 1+2 language strategy in primary schools should transform language learning. For this to succeed, however, there must be proper articulation between the primary school and the language departments of the secondary school. Before pupils are ready to arrive in S1, the secondary school should have a clear sense of pupils' prior learning in other languages.

3. The introduction of a first additional language (L2) at the early stages of primary with progression through the primary school should mean that substantial numbers of pupils at the end of primary education will have achieved a greater level of proficiency in that language. This progress, which needs to be duly captured in the P7 Pupil Profile, will have significant implications for the work of the secondary school, in particular, for arrangements to ensure effective transition and progression in the secondary school.

Recommendation 8: The Working Group recommends that primary and secondary schools work effectively together to ensure articulation between the sectors in terms of content, skills and approaches to learning and to enable effective transition, progression and continuity between P7 and S1, particularly for the L2 language.

Languages within a broad general education

4. All pupils in secondary schools have an entitlement to language learning throughout the broad general education. Young people learning languages are expected to experience the third level experiences and outcomes as part of their broad general education, under the umbrella of language study. The Working Group expects young people to continue with some form of language study in the L2 language up to the end of the broad general education, i.e to the end of S3. In terms of the L3 language, a number of approaches are possible besides a full subject option. For example, during the broad general education a new language could be taken forward through a carefully planned interdisciplinary approach, or through an elective or enrichment activity which runs for all or part of the session. These options should be introduced in a way that allows for genuine progression in L3 , which would ideally be the third language children had learned in primary school. The L3 language could thereafter be studied for certification purposes within the senior phase, based on learner choice. Such certification need not mean a full SQA course.

5. All secondary schools should make learning languages and gaining knowledge of other cultures part of the whole school curriculum. In best practice the whole school becomes involved in the culture of a link country and references to the language and culture are constantly on display, reinforcing the similarities and differences. It is also at the beginning of the secondary school that strong messages relating to the link between language learning and employability can be made. However, future employability is not the sole reason for continuing to learn languages in the secondary school. In an increasingly global world we must look to the kind of international contacts the citizens of tomorrow will have, not only in their work but also in their leisure activities, social life, and engagement in continuing education.

Recommendation 9: The Working Group recommends that language learning be recognised as an entitlement for all young people through to the end of their broad general education, S1 to S3.

Recommendation 10: The Working Group recommends that within the broad general education schools further develop the links between language learning and employability and citizenship.

Interdisciplinary working

6. Pupils will arrive in secondary school having experience of interdisciplinary working in the primary school. As one of four contexts for learning in Curriculum for Excellence, such a teaching approach is equally important in secondary schools although the challenges in some respects are greater. Good practice in interdisciplinary working involving modern languages already exists and should be shared more widely. There is scope to explore carefully planned interdisciplinary working as one of a number of vehicles for developing skills in modern languages at both the primary and secondary stages. It is important that work on trialling a range of approaches for introducing L3, such as those suggested in paragraph four above, start at the very early stages of implementation.

Recommendation 11: The Working Group recommends that schools develop language learning for L3 during the broad general education, choosing from a range of approaches including interdisciplinary working, and that these be piloted within the early stages of implementation.

7. The Working Group considers that Content and Language Integrated Learning ( CLIL), highlighted in the Modern Languages Excellence Report, is an approach which should be further explored and developed in secondary schools in the context of 1 + 2. This approach which is being developed in a number of secondary schools throughout the UK (including a number of secondary schools in Scotland), involves pupils learning a subject or part of a subject through the medium of a foreign language with dual aims - the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of another language.

Recommendation 12: The Working Group recommends that the CLIL approach be further explored as an option in secondary schools.

Teachers and support for teachers

8. The organisational implications of a 1+2 policy for secondary schools are very significant. Teachers census results indicate that many secondary schools currently employ teachers who are qualified in 2, or 3, languages. In the vast majority of cases these are European modern languages. However, some languages teachers only have a qualification in a single language. The introduction of a 1+2 policy is likely to have staffing implications for many secondary schools, not least in requiring an increased number of teachers able to teach more than one language. One option might be that schools make more use of teachers current dual qualifications or encourage their teachers to learn an additional language. Another option may be that they develop partnership arrangements across schools, although these are only really applicable in urban areas. The issue of qualifications and how teachers can gain additional qualifications, are addressed in part 6 of this report.

9. At the primary and secondary stages support for language learning can come from appropriately skilled speakers of the language. Native speakers, for example, working alongside pupils in support of the class teacher, can bring a unique insight to the culture of the country in which the language is spoken and offer linguistic support to teachers if required. Most prominent of these will be Foreign Language Assistants, but there could also be fluent speakers of other languages in a school's local community who, with appropriate support and training, could support staff on a flexible basis. This is discussed further in Part 7 of this Report.

Equality of provision and a 1+2 policy

10. The Working Group recognises that these recommendations set very substantial challenges for all schools. One significant issue is that of equality of provision. This means addressing issues of deprivation faced by many schools. It is a priority of the Working Group that the 1+2 policy must apply to all schools, regardless of social circumstances, while fully recognising the very real challenge this poses. This will require considerable strategic and operational support from local authorities.

11. The Working Group also recognises the issues confronting schools in rural and urban areas in terms of access both to qualified teachers and to other linguistic expertise. In taking these recommendations forward, there is a clear strategic role for Government and local authorities in developing proposals and sharing examples of good practice. The kind of models which local authorities and schools should consider might include clustering of schools within a local area. Such an approach, arguably, poses greater organisational considerations in the context of the broad general education than in the context of S5/6 where the issue of pupils travelling to other schools for timetabled classes, at least in urban areas, presents less of a challenge. For rural areas the challenges are very substantial and in such cases local authorities should also consider the use of peripatetic language support to schools which may require it.

Recommendation 13: The Working Group recommends that local authorities ensure that their languages strategy (Recommendation 2) take account of social deprivation challenges and of the different issues faced in urban and rural areas.

Curriculum development

12. There are clear implications for many schools for the development of course materials associated with the roll-out of a 1+2 language policy. Much valuable work is already being done by modern languages teachers to develop materials and activities which are imaginative and relevant and which promote real progression. However, this is not uniformly the case. Where there is poor pedagogy and the use of uninspiring materials, young people are not engaged in their learning and are not motivated to continue with language study. It is important to ensure that language learning is attractive to young people and that they recognise the relevance of language learning skills to their lives and future careers. In secondary schools support for the development of curricular materials and resources for a 1+2 policy, within the context of Curriculum for Excellence, should be led by Education Scotland.

Recommendation 14: The Working Group recommends that Education Scotland lead on support for curriculum development in schools within the context of 1+2 policy.

IT, media and links with other countries

13. There should be enhanced opportunities for pupils to have language input from native speakers of additional languages working in the school. Pupil engagement with native speakers of other languages can also be achieved by a much more developed use of IT within schools. The future development of GLOW and the approved use of social networking sites have a significant role to play. Broadcast media ( e.g. subtitled foreign films, television, radio) together with theatre and song all have a role to play. Much good practice exists at the moment through schools forming links with schools in other countries e.g. through e-twinning and international visits. It is suggested that such developments be enhanced to enable Scottish secondary pupils to forge genuine links with their peers in other countries. It is equally important that pupils from abroad have the opportunity to meet their peers in Scotland. It is therefore suggested that schools and the school community explore further ways in which young people from abroad can come to Scotland and work with schools, pupils and communities.

14. Taken together, these approaches could offer new opportunities for an enhanced experience of contemporary and relevant foreign language learning in Scotland's schools. Above all, if a 1+2 policy is to prove successful, a significant majority of pupils will, by the end of the broad general education, have a deep enthusiasm for language learning. They will wish to take this through to certificate level and will consider an option of one or more languages within the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence.

Recommendation 15: The Working Group recommends languages learning and development be supported by greater use of IT (including GLOW), social networking, media ( e.g. subtitled foreign films, television, radio) together with the development of opportunities in areas such as theatre, song, etwinning and international visits.

Towards the senior phase

15. By the end of the broad general education pupils have a range of options, including language options at a number of levels, available for them to consider for future certification. The overriding aim for secondary schools at this stage must be that they ensure that pupils have a real sense of the value of language learning, that they find it stimulating and enjoyable and that increasing numbers take languages forward to certificate level and beyond.

16. At the senior phase a range of National Qualifications, including those which emphasise the value of language skills for life and work, can meet the diverse needs of learners and ensure opportunities for personalisation and choice. As well as full courses in modern languages and Gaelic there are opportunities for young people to study individual Units in conjunction with other subject areas. Study at Higher level demands a deeper level of communicative skills and an increasing ability to cope with more spontaneous language. In addition, there is a growing number of presentations for the languages baccalaureate whose interdisciplinary project helps candidates develop generic skills and confidence which will serve them well in the field of employment or further study.

Recommendation 16: The Working Group recommends that schools provide all young people with flexible opportunities and encouragement to study more than one modern language to the level of a National Qualification Unit or course in the senior phase, whether in their own school or through cluster arrangements with other schools.

Making choices

17. In considering options for certificate work pupils should have the necessary information to help them recognise the value of language skills for their future development and life chances. The importance of language as a communicative tool should be emphasised. There is potential for conversation work e.g with Foreign Language Assistants and other native speakers as well as enhanced access to IT to support language learning. Links with schools and young people from other countries can be further developed as young people themselves mature. Such links can have much greater input from students themselves and learning can be on a less organised or group basis than in the earlier stages of the school. The importance of language study in enhancing young people's skills in their own language should also be stressed.

Employability and citizenship

18. Within the senior phase there is greater potential for course materials to be linked more explicitly to the world of work, employability and the needs of a global economy. There is scope for more explicit introduction of issues of global citizenship and recognition of the potential for language skills to enable young people to make deeper connections with citizens of other countries. The Working Group also considers that more can be done to help young people make informed choices based on the links between languages and employability. For example, schools should consider how they might make effective use of links and partnership working, where appropriate, with businesses in their local community. Crucially, young people will also be making choices on access to further and higher education. The enhanced language skills of young people should broaden the range of options which are available to them as they continue their education and consider future employment.

Recommendation 17: The Working Group recommends that schools and local authorities ensure that young people have appropriate information on the value of learning languages to certificate level, in terms of language and communication skills, employability and citizenship.


Email: Pam Semple

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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