McConnell backs shake-up for languages

28th September 2001 at 01:00
PRIMARY and secondary pupils may be more likely to learn French or German through immersion or partial immersion approaches after the Education Minister freed schools from their modern languages strait-jacket and gave them licence to innovate.

But the pound;10 million innovation fund proposed by the Mulgrew report into the shortcomings of language learning will be cut back to pound;2.5 million over the next two and a half years while the existing central fund to train primary teachers in languages is being axed. Ministers are re-examining the initial training of primary teachers.

Jack McConnell, addressing the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday on European Languages Day, said he was endorsing the report, prepared by by John Mulgrew, director of education in East Ayrshire.

Mr Mulgrew's analysis and recommendations were published last December and have subsequently been attacked, most notably by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, for being "unrealistic and unworkable".

Mr McConnell, however, has backed the key recommendations of ending compulsory languages up to S4 and introducing an entitlement of 500 hours of language learning for most pupils. He believes the entitlement will offer "a flexible approach to language learning which can be adapted to suit local circumstances and local needs".

Mr McConnell has also told inspectors to take a broader view of school initiatives. "This implies a general expectation that a progressive and coherent experience of a modern foreign language would feature in the programmes of almost all pupils, some exceptions being required if individual pupils had specific learning difficulties," he states.

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