Committee launches inquiry on teaching languages in primary schools

14/12/2012

An inquiry into the teaching of languages in primary schools has been launched today (Friday 14 December) by the European and External Relations Committee.

Earlier this year, the Government recommended that children should learn a second language from Primary 1 and that learning of a third language should start no later than Primary 5. The Committee has determined that it wants to look at this policy aim, the capacity within the curriculum for this, and the role of languages in supporting the economy.

To start the inquiry with ‘on the ground’ knowledge, Committee members will today visit Dalmarnock Primary School in Glasgow to meet teachers; observe teaching in practice (P7 class learning Italian, P6 class learning French and P2 class learning Spanish); and chat to parents and pupils.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Convener Christina McKelvie MSP said:

“Understanding another language is such an important skill and when children are young, studies have shown they can learn this so much more easily. The Government’s ambitions on this front have therefore been welcomed by the Committee.

“Our job as a Committee of the Scottish Parliament is to look at whether we think the proposals meet the aim of positively supporting primary school children in learning two more languages. And importantly, whether the resources and capacity are in place to help deliver this.

“Our visit to Dalmarnock Primary School will help us see things on the ground,  hearing directly from the pupils, the parents and teachers about their views on this. Today is just the first of a programme of visits across Scotland. Our Committee is looking forward to hearing more from people about how best to prepare our young people for a future within the wider world.”

Christina McKelvie MSP will be accompanied by the Deputy Convener Hanzala Malik MSP in this visit. The next visit will be to St Elizabeth’s, Eddlewood, near Hamilton (one of the Scottish Government pilot schools where Spanish is taught) on Friday 25 January 2013. Further details of other visits will be published in due course.

Background

The launch of the inquiry is taking place Friday morning at Dalmarnock Primary School, (111 Baltic Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow, G40 3BA).

The Scottish Parliament’s photographer Andrew Cowan will also supply photographs on request. The Scottish Parliament’s broadcast unit will be in attendance and can provide video / audio footage if requested in advance.

The Scottish Government proposes to enable all young people to learn 2 languages (as well as their mother tongue) whilst at primary school. This follows the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Languages Working Group report, ‘Language Learning in Scotland: A 1 + 2 Approach’ (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/3670). The Working Group recommended that children should learn a second language from Primary 1 and that learning of a third language should start no later than Primary 5.

A Scottish Government chamber debate was held in the Parliament on 24 May 2012 where support for the concept was recorded although concerns were noted regarding possible barriers including resources issues, skills deficits and cultural attitudes.

Issues to be explored in the Committee’s investigations include funding (including use of EU funds); the skills base and teaching resources available for language tuition; the capacity within the curriculum to accommodate greater language study; the choice of languages for teaching; and the role of languages in economic development.