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How the 500 hours would be delivered

David Henderson reports on the recommendations of the ministerial action group

THE most likely way of meeting the 500-hour entitlement, the action group says, is to allocate 75 minutes a week in P6 and P7, totalling 100 hours. This would be followed by some 400 hours in the same language between S1 and S4.

Primary teachers should devote 15 minutes a day to modern language learning but the inquiry accepts this is unlikely to happen until there are changes to the present pattern of language teaching. Currently, one trained person, normally with a P6 class, takes on the responsibility.

A little each day - the drip-feed approach - is better than once or twice a week, especially at primary, the group says. However, more mature learners benefit from more intensive learning.

It notes that Scos' competence in a language does not develop rapidly, an argument for sticking with the same language in primary and secondary.

Other means of notching up the hours could include earlier or later immersion for pupils. Partial immersion in the middle or upper years of secondary, by learning another subject through a European language, should be tested, the group suggests.

Schools and authorities should be free to experiment, backed by a Languages Innovation and Training Fund for an initial four years. "It is undeniable that at present modern languages are perceived to be a problem area," it says.

There is no tight time-scale in the report, only a recommendation that modern languages should be a priority over the next four years. Progress is "bound to be patchy in the short term".

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