Languages pilots 'suppressed'

13th March 1998 at 00:00
The results of the primary modern language pilots were "deliberately suppressed or not widely given out", Mary Shand, a Moray primary teacher, told the General Teaching Council last week.

Welcoming the council's inquiry into modern languages in primary, Mrs Shand said she had taken part in the pilot which deployed secondary staff in primaries. "It was extremely successful but the results were completely ignored," she said.

Primary teachers were now expected to add languages to their growing list of duties but there was no clear direction about what languages they should teach. "Does a primary school teacher learn every single one of them?" she asked.

Douglas Weir, dean of the education faculty at Strathclyde University, warned that more teachers were being asked to deliver programmes of study for which their competence had not been assessed. This undermined the integrity of the council.

Moray's education committee was told this week that the national evaluation of the languages pilot identified some excellent practice and significant achievements in learning modern languages but concluded that using visiting secondary specialists "was not the most efficient or effective" method.

Voluntary training has skewed the balance of trained staff towards French at the expense of German and the exclusion of Spanish and Italian. "Trained staff move on through transfer, promotion and retirement, which results in long discontinuities in pupil experience and management difficulties," a report concludes.

Among other concerns, the council says language choice in primary 6 constrains secondaries in setting, guidance and timetabling. The Scottish Office suggests secondary pupils should continue with the language they learnt in primary but this is sometimes impossible.

Moray also maintains that the model of the class teacher imparting language skills collapses when the trained teacher has to teach another class or group.

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