150 hours to learn Mandarin – and teach it

Primary teachers will learn new languages from scratch and teach them to pupils under a scheme launched today

Learn a language – and teach it at the same time

Hundreds of primary school teachers will have the chance to learn and teach new languages within seven months, under a scheme being expanded after a successful trial.

The distance-learning programme – the first of its kind in the UK – sees primary teachers study either French, Spanish, German or Mandarin and develop the skills to teach the language in the primary classroom at the same time.

After a pilot involving 54 teachers from 49 Scottish schools across nine local authorities in 2017-18, next year the scheme will be available throughout Scotland. Welsh and Northern Irish schools are also expected to sign up.

Teachers taking part will spend about five hours a week from October to June – around 150 hours in total – but they will start teaching the languages to pupils before completing the course.

The scheme, run by The Open University and Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (Scilt), will be launched in Edinburgh today.

It is designed to support the Scottish government’s “1+2” language policy, which aims to help pupils learn two languages other than their native tongue from primary school onwards, but has prompted concerns about the ability of smaller, rural schools to deliver it.

Immersive training

The programme will link up with cultural organisations of France, Spain, Germany and China to run immersive summer training for teachers, while primary schools will make connections with schools in other countries.

Dr Sylvia Warnecke, lecturer in languages and programme lead at The Open University, said: “The key thing about this programme is its flexibility, meaning that teachers in every part of Scotland – whether urban or rural – will be able to learn together and share their experiences and ideas, helping each other to bring the language they’re learning to life in the classroom.

“We’ve already had teachers from the pilot project tell us that their pupils love it and are really engaged.”

Scilt director Fhiona Mackay said: “The course is focused on developing teachers’ confidence so they are able to create exciting and motivating lessons for their pupils.”

She added: “The teachers’ commitment to developing their skills is humbling. Their willingness to embrace their own learning in order to benefit their pupils’ experience highlights the professionalism and dedication that is the mark of the teaching profession.”

Gwen McCrossan, a principal teacher for 1+2 Languages in the large and mainly rural area of Argyll and Bute, said: “This course is ideal for the geographical situation of Argyll and Bute.

"We are delighted to be able to take part, as it provides a quality learning experience for teachers who would otherwise find it difficult to access language training. The course is also unique because it is tailor-made for primary school.”

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