Reaction to the report

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Jan Howard

Education officer, Aberdeen City Council

"The recommendations regarding progress and continuity and the quantifying of the minimum time for learning a language are to be welcomed. However, a range of possible options could result in inconsistency across authorities. This should be recognised early as a priority for all education authorities.

"Diversification of languages has always been the problematic area, where it is felt that the Modern Languages in Primary Schools (MLPS) choice dictates that of secondary. Imaginative application of the 500 hours entitlement may open doors to learning a second or third language at different stages from those traditionally held to.

"The Languages Innovation and Training Fund (LITF) will allow for innovative approaches where previously lack of resources may have precluded their development.

"Inclusion of modern language study in initial teacher training is to be welcomed but has to be tempered with consideration of other subject interests of undergraduate teachers. It will also have an impact on subject advice given to school students intending to train as teachers."

Dan Tierney

National development officer for Modern Languages in Primary Schools (1992-2000)

"The report is correct to highlight the need to address the national attitude to language learning and to call for measures to address that. It is curious then that language learning is so important that it is to be called an 'entitlement' rather than a core component, as it is in other European countries.

"It is also puzzling that there is no national strategy for diversification. We have seen diversification reports come and go and yet French (wrongly in my opinion) continues to dominate. This report will not stop that.

"I welcome unreservedly the proposal for the BEd provision to be equivalent to the national training programme, for accreditation and for refresher training. I support the extension of information and communications technology with e-mail in particular. There are certainly some sophisticated examples of ICT.

"The report could perhaps have addressed in more depth more fundamental teaching and learning issues linked to motivation."

Jean Keenan

Headteacher, Lainshaw Primary, East Ayrshire

"Clearly there is a staff development issue which needs to be addressed urgently and the report recognises this in its proposal that initial teacher training courses should include a core language.

"I am in the enviable position of having four MLPS-trained staff. Two further teachers are confident in French and well able to teach it. However, five years from now the picture is likely to be very different. Staff retirements and promotion could result in us having no trained staff in languages.

"Even now, smaller schools are in a vulnerable position where there are fewer trained teachers. Movement of staff or absence can present problems very quickly and result in disruption to the delivery of language teaching."

Sylvie Grigas

French teacher, Walker Road Primary, Aberdeen (partial immersion project)

"I believe that all students should be entitled to an experience of learning a modern language which begins no later than P6. I welcome the fact that pupils should start learning a language as early as possible and am also delighted that languages will stay a requirement for all pupils.

"However, I wish the action group had recommended more practical ways to implement languages for all. Class size is not mentioned and it is often in over-crowded classes that problems, and thus demotivation, occurs.

"The importance of ICT is emphasised and it cannot be denied, especially in the higher stage f secondary school. However, we really need more teachers in the classroom."

Jacqui Johnston

Principal teacher of modernlanguages, Eyemouth High, Scottish Borders

"It is unfortunate that the action group seems to withdraw from the notion of compulsory languages, intending rather to 'imply a responsibility to make due provision I for every student who wishes to see their full entitlement through'. What about the pupil who does not want to? Apparently positive marketing will persuade them! Comparison with other European countries was not helpful, since the latter appear to be highly motivated linguistically.

"There are many positive aspects regarding diversification, progression and teacher support in the report which deserve discussion, but if the intention is to secure a place for modern languages in a curriculum where priorities have to be made, a compulsion is a high priority."

Elaine Kelly

Principal teacher of modern languages, Drummond Community High, Edinburgh

"Scottish teachers have for a number of years been devising strategies and methodologies to ensure the delivery of the languages for all policy. Many will now need reassurance that their efforts will not be undermined by too open an interpretation of the idea of entitlement by senior managers and local authorities.

"The report recognises the need for diversification and I am pleased to see so-called community languages such as Urdu being identified here as a legitimate choice. To lend this full weight a Higher course will need to be established as has been done for Standard grade Urdu.

"Primary schools are rightly identified as having a key role to play in language provision. In order to ensure that the current S2 drop off of interest does not simply move down a year or two, it will be essential that there is careful thought when taking forward the training of primary teachers. There has long since been a need for this.

"Secondary specialists will play a key role in supporting primary colleagues and partnerships should be forged to this end."

Phil Allan

Principal teacher of modern languages, St Bride's High, South Lanarkshire

"I think the report offers valid suggestions for the way ahead. However, a number of issues still need to be clarified.

"I welcome the provision of an innovation and training fund and would like to know what innovative approaches would be given priority. It will be interesting to see the diversity of reaction to the proposed 'entitlement' across the local authorities in Scotland.

"Technology is obviously important but I do not see it as a panacea for language learning. It's not enough just to say that ICT is central to modern language teaching. It's what we do with it that's important and the training of teachers is essential.

"Smaller class sizes would have been a welcome proposal. Developing foreign language skills in classes of 33 is very difficult for both staff and students."

Shealagh Doogan

S6 pupil, St Bride's High

"I think, on reflection, that if I had been given more opportunity of learning a modern language in primary, then learning it in high school wouldn't have been so daunting.

"I agree that children should be introduced to a new language as young as possible. In relation to this, I think it should be compulsory for teachers in primary education to know a language."

Michael Herd

S6 pupil, St Bride's High

"I agree fully that each individual should have the entitlement of at least 500 hours learning a modern foreign language. Within a community in Europe which is becoming more and more united, it seems appropriate that more should be done to promote modern business."

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