Specialist project adds value to new bac

Schools and colleges will have to pool their expertise and work together to meet the demands of the new languages baccalaureate

Henry Hepburn

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Schools and colleges will have to pool their expertise and work together in "consortia" if the unpre-cedented demands of the new languages baccalaureate are to be met, teachers have been warned.

The main innovation in the new qualification - an interdisciplinary project of unlimited length and on any subject - will require specialist knowledge that individual schools are unlikely to be able to provide on their own, delegates at the Scottish Association of Languages Teachers' annual conference in Stirling heard earlier this month.

Margaret Tierney, project manager in policy and new products for the Scottish Qualifications Authority, revealed the project would consist of 80 hours of directed learning, not all necessarily with their own teacher, and 80 hours of individual student work. No upper word limit was planned.

It was the project which gave the Scottish Government's baccalaureate - planned in tandem with a science baccalaureate - "added value" over existing qualifications, she said.

Delegates liked the freedom promised by the baccalaureate and the project in particular, but were wary about a lack of detail. "Just like A Curriculum for Excellence," said one afterwards.

They also heard that, while discussions were ongoing with Scottish universities to achieve official recognition, no such talks had started with English universities.

The baccalaureate will nevertheless go ahead without any pilot studies, with the first registrations next year and the first certification in 2010. Even with much detail to be firmed up, Ms Tierney said there had been "quite a lot of interest from schools and colleges and combinations of both" to take part.

Ms Tierney stressed the new qualification was not designed to replace Advanced Higher. Although the final structure had yet to be confirmed, the languages baccalaureate was likely to con- sist of an Advanced Higher in a language - the possibility of English as one option has not been ruled out - two different languages at Higher, plus a Higher in English, English for speakers of other languages, or Gaelic medium.

The expertise of several departments was likely to be drawn on for each project, both formally and informally, and the most efficient model would be for schools and colleges to form a "consortium", said Joanna McPake, director of the Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, who presented the seminar alongside Ms Tierney.

More remote schools should not be at a disadvantage. Ms McPake said it had "already become really clear that distance learning could be a major feature of this". Glow, the Scottish schools intranet, could have a big role.

A successful baccalaureate would lead to either a pass or distinction, but the project would be marked from A to C. It is proposed that the project be internally marked in school and quality assured by an external forum. Assessment would be based more on the project's overall quality than competence in writing in another language.

The project could be on any area of interest as long as pupils showed they were putting their knowledge of language to use.

A meeting of high-level education officials from around the country is expected to hear more concrete proposals at an event in Stirling on November 28.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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