Language learning in Scotland: a 1 + 2 approach

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


Hearing the language

1. Children's experience of language learning and teachers' delivery can be enhanced through the use of appropriate adult speakers of the language. In the past, exposure to native speakers of other languages within schools has been seen as valuable if not essential. The employment of Foreign Language Assistants in Local Authority schools has been, year on year, one of the most exposed areas for budget reductions at times of economic pressure. However, it is clear that exposure to native speakers of languages is a desirable part of language learning in schools. The increased use of technology also allows exposure to native speakers of other languages through television or through developing a 'virtual world'. This is even more important at a time of increasing globalisation and of developing markets. Pupils must have a real sense of what the language sounds like when spoken by a native speaker and how to engage in conversation with a native speaker. Much good practice is already in place in many schools. Equality of access by pupils to native speakers is important. Pupils should not be prevented from this contact because of where they live and go to school in Scotland. The Working Group considers access to native speakers of other languages for both secondary and primary pupils to be of high importance.

2. In recent years, there has been a growth in the number of qualified teachers who are native speakers of other languages working in schools, most notably in secondary schools. Many teachers of languages whose first language is English have developed a high level of linguistic ability which they bring to their teaching.

3. Some native speakers, who are qualified teachers in their own country, come to work in schools in Scotland for a set period. In many cases the teacher's contract is set for one school year. Such teachers, qualified in their own country, but not qualified to work as GTC registered teachers in Scotland are funded and supported by the country of origin. Work on the appointment of such teachers is often undertaken by overseas embassies within the UK and consulates within Scotland. They include teachers from Italy and France, and more recently, the teachers of Chinese from Tianjin Province in China who are supported by the Hanban Organisation.

Foreign Language Assistants

4. The most frequent and significant means for pupils in schools who are learning a language to have access to a native speaker is through the deployment of Foreign Language Assistants. These are hosted by the British Council in cooperation with the UK and Scottish Government. In recent years there has been a very sharp decline in Foreign Language Assistant provision. In session 2011-2012 the figure was only 59, down from almost 300 in 2005-2006. Foreign Language Assistants in primary and secondary schools will have a key role to play in successful implementation of a 1+2 policy.

5. The Working Group believes that the appointment of FLAs should be a key element of the work of the Implementation Group in liaison with the British Council, Scotland's National Centre for Languages and with local authorities.

Recommendation 30: The Working Group recommends that Foreign Language Assistants are considered a key element of the implementation of 1+2, and work on this be undertaken involving local authorities, British Council Scotland and Scotland's National Centre for Languages.

6. In addition to the employment of Foreign Language Assistants, local authorities should consider how they might engage the support of other appropriately skilled native speakers of additional languages. Within the communities in Scotland there are now substantial numbers of people who are native speakers of additional languages that may be taught in schools. These include speakers of community languages, not least the parents of pupils in schools speaking such languages, speakers of Gaelic living and working in the community and also increasing numbers of speakers of foreign European languages. There are also speakers of languages which will be increasingly significant in a fast developing globalised world e.g. Chinese (Mandarin) and Russian. The Working Group recommends that every local authority should develop a process for the engagement within schools of suitably qualified and trained individuals who are native speakers of other languages to work in schools. Such native speakers would not be deployed as teachers but would work in schools under the direct and explicit supervision of the classroom teachers. Local Authorities and schools should be asked to develop strategies for this purpose which are consistent with any national guidelines published by Scottish Government and GTCS.

7. In some cases, native speakers could be deployed on the basis of volunteering. In others, remuneration might be appropriate, e.g. analogous to remuneration for classroom assistants. Due account must also be taken of the provisions of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups ( PVG) legislation. In doing so, however, it is important to ensure that this legislation is not seen as a barrier to responsible adults seeking to work within the school community. Local authorities have a key role in supporting and advising on PVG processes for adults working in schools.

Recommendation 31: The Working Group recommends that schools and local authorities consider the engagement by schools of other skilled and trained native speakers of additional languages to work under the direct and explicit supervision of the classroom teacher in schools.

Recruitment, training and development of native speakers of additional languages

8. All native speakers working to support 1+2 delivery in schools should undergo an appropriate process of recruitment, training and development. This training and development should include arrangements to explain the context, nature and objectives of the 1+2 policy and also of Government and local authority policies in relation to Curriculum for Excellence. There should be training in relation to basic pedagogy for the teaching of other languages within the school and the key aims and principles of Curriculum for Excellence. It is proposed that related developments become part of the early work of the implementation process. The training should take place alongside teachers who should be engaging in associated CPD processes within schools.

English as an additional language

9. It is recommended elsewhere in this report that a 1+2 languages delivery will mean substantial enhancement of the role of EAL within schools and staff working within EAL will be central to 1+2 delivery. This will involve both qualified teachers and support staff working within EAL. Much important work has already been undertaken in Scotland in delivery of EAL and in developing the qualifications and roles of staff working within the sector. However, it is a service which is itself frequently vulnerable at a time of budgetary reductions. The Group is of the view that EAL work and delivery should be incorporated within a policy of 1+2 delivery in schools and should be protected and developed as part of the roll-out of that policy.

Recommendation 32: The Working Group recommends that EAL work and delivery be incorporated into local authority strategies for the 1+2 policy delivery in schools.

Role of cultural organisations

10. Cultural organisations in Scotland have a significant role to play in supporting the work of schools in the delivery of a 1+2 programme. Many Consuls General and cultural organisations have done much to support language learning in schools. They have sometimes expressed concern at the decline in language learning as evidenced by the falling numbers of pupils in Scotland who gain certification in languages. Many cultural organisations have already indicated a willingness to be part of the 1+2 implementation process. The Working Group considers that the strong links which already exist between cultural organisations, local authorities, the language communities and schools in Scotland should be supported and further developed within the context of 1+2 roll-out. These include cultural organisations such as L'Institut Français, Goethe Institut, the Italian Consulate, Asesoria (Spanish Consulate), Russian Scottish Alliance and the Confucius Institutes. An encouraging recent development has been the development of Confucius Institutes in Scotland including the new Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools ( CISS) being developed at Strathclyde University as part of Scotland's National Centre for Languages.

Recommendation 33: The Working Group recommends further development of the links involving cultural organisations, local authorities, language communities and schools.


Email: Pam Semple

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