Languages Strategic Implementation Group minutes: August 2021

Minutes from the 23rd meeting of the Languages Strategic Implementation Group (SIG), held on 24 August 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Laurence Findlay (Chair) (LF), ADES
  • Louise Glen (Chair) (LG), Education Scotland
  • Helene Cornu (Secretariat) (HC), Scottish Government
  • Ross Cumming (Secretariat) (RC), Scottish Government
  • Edward Welch (EW), UCMLS
  • Francisco Valdera-Gil (FV), SCDE Modern Languages Group
  • Graham Hutton (GH), School Leaders Scotland
  • Inge Birnie (IB), SCDE Modern Languages Group
  • Lisa Hanna (LH), SCILT
  • Louise Whyte (LW), SALT
  • Matthew Sweeney (MS), COSLA
  • Owen Griffiths (OG), Scottish Government
  • Sarah Stevenson (SS), GTCS
  • Suzanne Marshall (SM), CDNS
  • Sylvia Georgin (SG), LANGS

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

LF welcomed everyone to the meeting, which was held via MS Teams. Apologies were received from Anne Keenan, Fhiona Mackay and Robert Quinn. EW and OG were welcomed to the group as new members.

Approval of minutes from previous meeting

The minutes of the 22nd meeting of the group, held on 16 March 2021, were approved as accurate.

Matters arising from minutes and actions outstanding

Action: Chairs to develop priority actions for the group to take forward in 2021-22

This action has been completed through the work of the Short Life Working Group (see agenda item 5).

Action: Chairs to request a thematic review of the 1+2 languages policy

LF met with Janie McManus (Strategic Director for Scrutiny at Education Scotland) in July. Her view is that, as thematic reviews can take a long time to plan and conduct, a more pacey and bespoke piece of work might be more appropriate. The annual LA survey already works to highlight some of the issues with implementation that a thematic review would uncover. 

LF recommended establishing a small working group, to make a system wide evaluation of 1+2 implementation in past decade. The group would consist of SIG members, school inspectors, local authority languages leads, school and university practitioners. 

GH asked whether practitioners doing the job itself will be included. His experience with other groups in the past year has been that this perspective can be missed. LF agreed and felt that a principal teacher of languages, primary practitioners and SALT representative should all be involved.

The group was in agreement on this way forward. LF will speak with Janie McManus again and keep the group updated.


  • LF to keep group updated regarding working group on evaluation of 1+2 implementation

Action: Chairs to write to Directors of Education regarding the 1+2 survey for 2020-21.

This action has been completed, with a letter being issued alongside the launch of the survey in May (see agenda item 4b).

Action: UCMLS to investigate current engagement and outreach between schools, local authorities and universities, and to share this with SIG members in a written report.

The chairs agreed with EW to postpone the action to the next meeting to allow EW to meet with university reps and see what activities have taken place during past 18 months.


  • EW to prepare an update for the November SIG meeting


a)    Language Assistant programmes

  • Thomas Dearing and Gerry McIntosh from the British Council gave an overview of recent developments with their Language Assistants programmes
  • these programmes cover outgoing English Language Assistants (ELAs) and incoming Modern Language Assistants (MLAs)
  • Thomas is Head of the Language Assistant programmes for the UK. Gerry is Project Manager for Scotland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • research has shown that language assistants have a number of positive impacts on pupils, including improving exam grades, increasing cultural awareness, and building interest / confidence in language learning
  • incoming language assistants benefit Scotland in terms of teacher supply, as they often decide to stay or return later to train to become teachers
  • the ELA programme is beneficial for language undergraduates who are required to spend time abroad as part of their degree. There are currently ~2,000 ELAs in 15 destinations
  • after a dip due to Covid-19 restrictions, the number of MLAs has increased, with 500 students being recruited from overseas in the past year
  • however the programme now operates very differently following Brexit. MLAs now require a visa for entry to the UK. British Council is an official Tier 5 visa sponsor, and all staff are trained in using the UK visa portal
  • placements used to last nine months, however shorter six months placements have now been introduced. These provide more flexibility and are more equitable for host institutions
  • there has been a sharp 30% increase (30%) in ELA applications this year, although it is too early to say whether this indicates a longer term change
  • the pandemic had a major impact on the operation of the programme. The British Council worked with schools and overseas partners to develop new processes and  policies, including how to make best use of MLAs who couldn’t return home
  • contingencies are now in place if restrictions are reintroduced, with guidance for host institutions. Good relations with British Council offices abroad, so they can raise issues with ambassadors

b)    1+2 LA survey

RC gave an update on the annual local authority survey of 1+2 implementation.

The 2020-21 survey took place from 4 May to 30 June. Responses were received from almost every local authority, covering nearly all the primary and secondary schools in the country.

Preliminary findings of the survey have recently been received from analysts. These highlight broadly that:

  • in the primary sector, covid appears to have had some impact on provision of the full L2 entitlement when compared to 2019. However, nearly all schools were providing an L2, either in full or partially
  • in the secondary sector, covid appears to have had less of an impact, with trends stable compared to 2019. All schools were providing an L2 entitlement, either in full or partially, and most also provided an L3 entitlement
  • French remains by far the most popular L2 language in both the primary and secondary sectors; this is the same case for Spanish as an L3 language
  • there appears to be a notable increase from 2019 in the number of schools teaching BSL and Scots as an L3 language, in both the primary and secondary sectors

A full analysis of responses is now underway, and a report of the findings will be published in the near future. More information should be available to be shared at the next SIG meeting.

Priorities for the group in 2021-22

LG explained that a short life working group of SIG members, local authority, SCILT and Education Scotland reps was created to explore how to resolve the remaining challenges to fully implementing the 1+2 policy. Shona Hugh (Modern Languages Development Officer, Education Scotland) was tasked with leading the group to identify priorities actions for the SIG to take forward.

Shona presented the group’s findings to the SIG. She explained that the group decided to focus on three key areas for consideration: ITE and professional learning; the role of languages in the BGE; and secondary languages teachers.

They then looked at the 1+2 policy’s 35 recommendations with the aim of identifying whether they were still relevant, needed updating, or needed new thinking. 

This led to the development of the following suite of actions, matched against the three key areas, which the group felt was achievable for the SIG: 

ITE and professional learning

  • work with education establishments to provide a parity of experience for students, i.e. providing study of the policy and pedagogy, as well as the option for studying a language
  • encourage SCDE to work with partners to develop a national digital course to incorporate the policy and pedagogy of language learning
  • work with SCDE to have a level 5 language qualification as a ‘desirable’ for entry to all primary teaching courses
  • seek continued Scottish Government support for Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) and local authorities (LAs)
  • explore use of a national e-learning platform to host, share and curate resources for teachers and practitioners

Role of languages in the BGE

  • reinforce the policy position of regular planned exposure to languages as part of learning
  • engage with stakeholders to clarify the entitlement to language learning in the secondary BGE, with sufficient time for learners to achieve third and some fourth level experiences and outcomes in the L2 or L3. This would provide a springboard for National Qualifications
  • work with RICs and LAs to support schools to demonstrate a clear rationale for language learning and its links to key modern skills, as part of the refreshed CfE narrative

Secondary languages teachers

  • work with RICs and LAs to support schools to provide planned, regular opportunities for teachers to engage in professional dialogue and collaborative working
  • work with RICs and LAs to encourage the use of emerging digital technologies to develop and sustain progression in  language learning

Highlights from the discussion that followed included:

  • OG: 1+2 implementation has made a lot of progress since the policy was first introduced. This work is helpful to making those final steps and moving 1+2 from an ambition to a baseline standard at schools. The focus has to be on bridging that gap and not losing any gains
  • FV: SCDE has seen a big dip in recruitment from EU students for ITE courses. 1+2 will suffer from this in the long term and a solution is needed
  • LW: Think digital resources will make big difference, as they have helped us to collaborate with primary colleagues. Broader question though of whether we’re teaching children to be linguists or to pass exams
  • IB: Carried out an anonymised survey of ITE institutions to gauge how students perceived language learning. While most have a language qualification, they still did not have confidence in teaching. They felt their knowledge wasn’t secure, wanted more pedagogical input in how to teach a language, wanted more opportunities to observe languages being taught, and to do placements. Students in general felt less confident about teaching languages than any other subject (bar STEM)
  • EW: UCMLS is committed partner and wants to assist as much as possible with 1+2 implementation. Covid has had positive impact in delivering digital resources. Happy to think about how we develop online resources and use language ambassadors to highlight the importance of languages, and work with SIG
  • SG: Agreed that online learning resources were the way forward, particularly as travel was a regular stumbling block for practitioners to access training pre-Covid
  • LF agreed that the action points gave the group a solid base to work from, but questioned how we now build on this, and emphasized the need to develop an overall work plan. It was agreed to hold a one-hour session at the end of September to focus on substantive actions and develop a work plan


  • Secretariat to organise one-hour SIG session for end of September

Any other business

LW advised that the SALT annual conference will be held online on Saturday 6 November. So far they have had confirmation that 277 secondary and 63 primary teachers will attend. Group members’ help in encouraging more primary teachers to attend would be welcomed.

Date of next meeting

The next full meeting will take place in late November or early December (date to be confirmed). 

Summary of actions


  • LF to keep group updated regarding working group on evaluation of 1+2 implementation. Responsible: Chairs. Due date: Nov 2021
  • Secretariat to organise one-hour SIG session for end of September. Responsible: Secretariat. Due Date: Sep 2021


  • UCMLS to provide SIG with report on current engagement / outreach between schools, local authorities and universities. Responsible: Edward Welch. Due date: Nov 2021. Progress status: Meeting with university reps shortly to see what activities have taken place during past 18 months


  • Chairs to develop priority actions for the group to take forward in 2021-22. Responsible: Chairs. Due date: Apr 2021. Progress status: Completed
  • Chairs to write to Directors of Education regarding the 1+2 survey for 2020-21. Responsible: Chairs. Due date: Apr 2021. Progress status: Completed
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