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Teachers to learn to teach languages in the classroom

Tomintoul Primary School pupils

An innovative scheme teaching primary teachers languages and how to teach those languages to pupils is being expanded across Scotland for the first time.

The first of its kind in the UK, the distance learning programme will see primary teachers study French, Spanish, German or Mandarin and develop the skills to teach the language in the classroom at the same time. 

Launching across Scotland today (Thursday 7 June) at an event in Edinburgh where guests will hear from pupils and teachers, the programme is now available to primary school teachers in all local authorities following a successful pilot which featured 54 teachers from 49 schools across nine local authorities in 2017/18.

The programme is a partnership between The Open University and SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages based at the University of Strathclyde.

Designed to support the Scottish Government’s ‘1+2’ language policy, which aims to enable all pupils to learn two additional languages from primary level onwards, the programme will link up with the cultural organisations of France, Spain, Germany and China to facilitate immersive summer schools for participating teachers.

At the same time, schools will also have the opportunity to make connections with schools in the countries whose language pupils are learning.

Dr Sylvia Warnecke, lecturer in languages and programme lead at The Open University, said:

“The key thing about this programme is its flexibility, meaning that teachers in every part of Scotland – whether urban or rural – will be able to learn together and share their experiences and ideas, helping each other to bring the language they’re learning to life in the classroom. 

“We’ve already had teachers from the pilot project tell us that their pupils love it and are really engaged. They have been instrumental in starting after school language clubs and making links with schools in other countries. It’s exciting that all teachers, schools and pupils in every part of Scotland now have the chance to learn together through this programme.”

Fhiona Mackay, Director of SCILT, said:

“We see this as an important collaboration between our two universities, local authorities and teachers. The course is focused on developing teachers’ confidence so they are able to create exciting and motivating lessons for their pupils. In this way we can make sure that languages feature as an integral part of the Scottish curriculum and that youngsters are given their full entitlement to language learning.  

“The teachers’ commitment to developing their skills is humbling. Their willingness to embrace their own learning in order to benefit their pupils’ experience highlights the professionalism and dedication that is the mark of the teaching profession.”

Gwen McCrossan, Principal Teacher for 1+2 Languages, Argyll & Bute, said:

“This course is ideal for the geographical situation of Argyll & Bute. We are delighted to be able to take part, as it provides a quality learning experience for teachers who would otherwise find it difficult to access language training. The course is also unique because it is tailor-made for primary school.”

The pilot project has been shortlisted in the partnership category in this year’s Herald Higher Education Awards.

Such is the interest in the programme following its pilot phase and ahead of its wider rollout, it is expected that teachers from Wales and Northern Ireland will join the next presentation starting in October 2018.

  • Pictured above: pupils at Tomintoul Primary School in Moray, using their new skills in German to update their ‘Tomintoul Information Boards’ to be more helpful to tourists.

Background 

Languages are one of the eight curricular areas of Curriculum for Excellence, and the Scottish Government is committed to the 1+2 policy to enhance and extend language learning for all children and young people from early primary stages onwards.

Local authorities are expected to implement 1+2 such that the first additional language (L2) is provided from Primary 1 onwards and the second additional language (L3) by Primary 5 at the latest.

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