The result of these investigations was a report published in May 2012 which set out, through 35 recommendations, the difficult path towards realising the Government’s aspiration. You can get a copy of the report on the Scottish Government website:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/3670/downloads

There are many tricky issues to be unpicked if this ambition is to be achieved, not least the resource implications of having a workforce ready to deliver quality modern language education from P1 onwards. (It is worth noting that the recent GTCS consultation on entry requirements for initial teacher education courses included a requirement for applicants to have a Higher in a modern language or to achieve that standard as part of their university studies.)

The report recommends that schools offer access to a first additional language from P1 and suggests that the research shows that the best start is an early start. Some critics have pointed to research evidence which argues against that and instead focusses on the need to build up a full grasp of one’s mother tongue, including rules of grammar, before starting with a second language. It is suggested that teaching of the second additional language should start no later than P5 but that schools and local authorities may elect to introduce it sooner.

The report steers clear of recommending specific languages to be taught across Scotland. Instead it suggests that local authorities and schools develop their own 1+2 strategy. Concerns have been raised about how this approach might cause difficulty for pupils who move school or for the supply of teachers with appropriate languages for specific areas.

The Scottish Parliament’s Europe and External Relations Committee has recently taken evidence from a range of sources about the report and the Government’s plans in response to it as well as holding a short conference to get views from a wider audience. In interesting presentations given at this conference it was clear that Scotland was not the only country grappling with this issue. Many EU countries are very successful in teaching one additional language (usually English) but few are consistently achieving the 1+2 aspiration. We all have a long way to go!

If you would like to share your school’s story about language learning please e-mail info@ahds.org.uk and include ‘Language Learning’ in the subject field of your message.