Big chance for a linguistic U-turn
In 2000, the Ministerial Action Group on Languages set up by Helen Liddell called for modern languages to become a compulsory part of initial teacher education. This would allow for modern languages to become embedded in the day-to-day activities of the primary curriculum.
Despite this being a centrepiece recommendation of the report Citizens of a Multilingual World, it was never implemented. The ITE review group rejected it, arguing that the teacher education curriculum could not accommodate any additional core subjects.
But it seems there is now a formal obligation to revisit that decision. This is based on current ITE guidelines, which came into force in 2006. These state: "Programmes must prepare teachers to teach children through two full years of pre-school education . They must ensure that all new teachers are able . to deliver the full curriculum."
With languages now a core part of the primary curriculum under Curriculum for Excellence, it is hard to see how new teachers could deliver the curriculum without some modern languages training.
With the advent of the Donaldson review, this is an ideal opportunity for the action group's recommendation to be revisited five years after being formally rejected.
But with any reform likely be opposed by teacher education institutions, the Donaldson review could pose a dilemma for the former senior chief inspector. If it rejects a core place for modern languages, the other options would be their reduced role in the curriculum or a change in the regulatory framework. With the SNP Government claiming to put modern languages to the fore, the Donaldson review might signify far-reaching reform of pre-service training.
With the Education Secretary scheduled to take questions on the role of languages in the new curriculum at the parliamentary education committee on February 10, we should soon get a better idea of whether such reform is in the pipeline.
Hugh Robertson.Orchy Crescent, Bearsden.