UK - Scotland

Country context

Scotland has a population of 5.22 million people of which 92,000, or just under 2%, have some knowledge of Gaelic1. Scotland has been attracting inward migration since 20022: the 2001 Census showed a 2% non-white ethnic minority with the majority being of Pakistani origin, but by 2009 a national pupil survey3 showed 4.3% of school children mainly used a language other than English at home. 138 languages were recorded as having been spoken altogether, with Polish at the head of the list with 0.8% of the school population, followed by Panjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Cantonese, French and Gaelic respectively. Six hundred and twenty six pupils were registered as speaking mainly Gaelic at home, slightly less than one in 1,000. However, many more are receiving Gaelic medium education or are being taught Gaelic through the medium of Gaelic – 4,064 in 2011, equivalent to one in every 180 pupils4.

Scotland is in the second year of implementing a new Curriculum for Excellence which treats learning holistically rather than as a series of separate subjects. There have been concerns that this may aggravate the situation for languages as both primary and secondary schools prioritise numeracy, literacy and health and wellbeing. As a result the Scottish Schools Inspectorate was moved to make a strong statement about the importance it attaches to languages in the curriculum5.

Immigrant languages tend not to be offered in Scottish schools, the emphasis being on teaching immigrant children English.

Scotland’s Census 2001: Gaelic Report 2005, General Register Office for Scotland
Scotland’s Population 2010, The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, August 2011
Pupils in Scotland 2009, Scottish Government Publications
Scottish Government, Pupil Census, Supplementary Data 2011
TESS 4/6/2010

Languages in official documents and databases

English, foreign languages, R/M languages and immigrant languages are dealt with in language legislation and/or language policy documents in Scotland. The learning and teaching of English abroad for children and/or adults originating from the UK is (co-)funded in Belgium, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Italy and the Netherlands. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages has been signed and ratified by the UK. In Scotland, the following R/M languages are recognised in the Charter: Scots and Scottish Gaelic. There is official provision in region-wide education, supported by the Charter, for Scottish Gaelic.

Official data collection mechanisms on language diversity in Scotland exist in terms of periodically updated census data. In these data collection mechanisms, national, R/M and immigrant language varieties are addressed, based on a home language and a main language question, plus a language proficiency question on English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic in terms of whether (and how well) the languages can be spoken/understood/read/written.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 required the creation of a National Plan for Gaelic and the Scottish Government is committed to enhancing the status of the language, its acquisition and use. It has recently published a draft National Gaelic Language Plan for 2012-20171 which has included the development of a curriculum in Gaelic. The relatively favourable standing given to Gaelic has raised questions about the position of the Scots language, which is also recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, along with Ulster Scots. The Report of the Ministerial Working Group on the Scots Language (November 2010)2 called for the Scottish Government to develop a Scots Language Policy and for Scotland to be presented internationally as a trilingual country. 

Policy and practice surrounding English as an Additional Language (EAL) and support for newcomers was reviewed in 20093 The subsequent report recommends best practice found in local authorities and to be shared more widely, including: welcoming new arrivals and approaches to initial and ongoing assessments; enabling newly-arrived children and young people to use their first language as a tool for learning; and providing well-targeted staff training to enable staff to meet the needs of newly-arrived children and young people more effectively.

Official UK-wide data collection mechanisms on language diversity exist in terms of periodically updated municipal register data, census data and survey data.

www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/45383.aspx
Report of the Ministerial Working Group on the Scots Language, November 2010
Count Us In report, 2009 www.ltscotland.org.uk/Images/cuimnnus_tcm4-618947.pdf

Languages in pre-primary education

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support 
FL: all  restricted  no support 
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
NL: all  immigrant children only  no support 
1 1 none 3
Duration
≥2 years 1 year <1 year  
2 1 none 2
Minimum group size requirements
 none  5-10  >10
3 3 none 3
Days per week
 >1 day  0.5-1 day  <0.5 day
3 1 none 1
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none
3 1 none 3
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none
1 1 none 3
State funding available
full partial none
3 2 none 3

Languages offered in pre-primary education

R/M Languages

Scottish Gaelic

Foreign Languages

Chinese, French, German, Italian, Spanish- but often only in private sector

Immigrant Languages

-

A small but growing number of pre-school establishments offer foreign language support, mainly in the private sector but some Local Authorities provide foreign languages from age three. All children with limited ability in English receive extra support if they need it from a combination of EAL trained and non-EAL trained staff.

Gaelic is offered in a small number of pre-school institutions (approximately 2000 children enrolled). Immigrant languages are rarely offered.

Languages in primary education

Organisation

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3 3 none
Languages used as a medium of instruction (CLIL)
  widespread localised absent  
2 2 none
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support
FL: all  restricted  no support
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
3 3 none
Start of language education
from year 1 from mid-phase end-phase only  
3 1 none
Scheduling
in school hours partly in school hours  outside school hours   
3 3 none
Minimum group size requirements
none 5-10 >10  
3 3 none
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised  school based  absent   
3 3 none
Level to be achieved
Other NL: national or regional norms school norms not specified
FL: linked to CEFR national or school norms not specified
IL: national or regional norms school norms not specified
2 3 none
State funding available
full partial none  
3 3 none

 

NL

National Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3
Extra support for newcomers
before mainstream during mainstream  absent   
3
Diagnostic testing on entry
all immigrants only absent  
3
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised  school based  absent   
3

Teaching

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers  unqualified   
3 2 none
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3 2 none
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3 3 none
Mobility
incorporated into training informal financial support no informal financial support not applicable  
0 2 0

 

NL

National Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers  unqualified   
3
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3

Languages offered in primary education

R/M Languages

Scottish Gaelic

Foreign Languages

French, German, Spanish: optional

Immigrant Languages

-

Scotland was an early adopter of primary foreign languages (1992), and by 2005 practically all Scottish primary schools taught a foreign language. French was and remains dominant (compared to Spanish, German, Italian and Gaelic). All young people have an entitlement to learn at least one foreign language from the later stage of primary school, but it is not compulsory. The Curriculum for Excellence gives clear guidelines for Foreign Language (FL) teaching and the target level to be achieved by the end of primary is A1 on the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). In most cases, FL teaching is limited to the final two years of primary school – 10 to 12 year olds - and has a small time allocation. Recent concerns relate to teacher training and local authority support (due to funding reductions)1

The learning of Gaelic has been treated fundamentally differently, with the setting up, from 1986 onwards, of Gaelic medium units in primary schools throughout Scotland, complemented by Gaelic-medium pre-school provision in many areas. The most recent HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) report2 found 2,312 children being educated in Gaelic medium primary provision, most of whom do not have Gaelic as first language. Gaelic is also offered as second language in a number of primary schools.

All newcomers in mainstream schools receive support in English before and during mainstream classes, and their skills are assessed and monitored regularly by an EAL specialist. Immigrant languages are rarely offered.

‘Pupils risk being lost in translation’, Edinburgh Evening News 16/4/2010
HMIE, Gaelic Education: Building on the successes, addressing the barriers, 21 June 2011

Languages in secondary education

Organisation

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3 3 none
Languages used as a medium of instruction (CLIL)
widespread localised absent  
2 1 none
Target groups
R/ML: all  native speakers only  no support
FL: all  restricted  no support
IL: all  native speakers only  no support
3 3 none
Scheduling
in school hours partly in school hours outside school hours  
3 3 none
Minimum group size requirements
none 5-10 >10  
2 3 none
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised school based absent  
3 2 none
Level to be achieved
Other NL: national or regional norms school norms not specified not applicable
FL: linked to CEFR national or school norms not specified not applicable
IL: national or regional norms school norms not specified not applicable
3 3 none
State funding available
full partial none  
3 3 none

 

NL

National Languages
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines  
3
Extra support for newcomers
before mainstream during mainstream absent  
3
Diagnostic testing on entry
all immigrants only absent  
3
Monitoring of language skills
national standardised school based absent  
3

Teaching

 

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers unqualified  
3 3 none
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
2 3 none
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3 3 none
Mobility
incorporated into training some financial support none not applicable  
0 3 0
Language level required
linked to CEFR national or region-wide standards none not applicable  
0 2 0

 

NL

National Languages
Teacher qualifications
language teachers general teachers unqualified  
3
Pre-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3
In-service teacher training
subject-specific general none  
3
Language level required for non-native speakers
linked to CEFR national or school-based norms not specified  
2

Languages offered in secondary education

R/M Languages

Scottish Gaelic

Foreign Languages

Generally French, German or Spanish. Also Italian and Chinese: one of these languages is compulsory/optional

Immigrant Languages

Chinese, Russian, Urdu

Modern languages are an integral part of the Curriculum for Excellence and all children are entitled to a modern language as part of their broad general education (S1-S3). The entitlement is to have the opportunity to reach at least level A2 on the CEFR and for most learners this will happen within the broad, general education (S1-S3), rather than the senior phase (S4- S6). The Scottish Government aims to implement policies to ensure that every child learns two languages in addition to their mother tongue.

However, the present situation of foreign languages in secondary schools is a matter of concern. Whereas in 2001 practically all pupils studied a language up to the 4th year of secondary education, by 2010 this had dropped to 67%1. French accounts for around 70% of exam entries, followed by German (c.16%) and Spanish (c.10%). Spanish has been increasing despite the overall decline2. At more advanced levels, the situation is more stable3

In 2011 more than half of Scottish Local Authorities reported having at least one secondary school where languages were not compulsory with schools interpreting the ‘entitlement’ to language learning as having been met in primary school4. Pressures on public spending have impacted on the employment of Foreign Language Assistants in schools (from 285 in 2005 to 59 in 2011), prompting a public outcry from foreign Consuls General and concerns over the future competitiveness of Scottish businesses5.

There is a serious challenge in providing continuity for children to learn through the medium of Gaelic in secondary school, with only 36 schools providing it and mainly confining it to the first two years of secondary education.

Scots is not taught as a specific subject but is part of the language that many children bring to school. Schools are encouraged, therefore, to make use of this and to offer learners the chance to experience aspects of Scots language across curricular subjects.

There is a clear curriculum for the teaching of English as a first and second language. Newcomers receive extra support; however provision varies widely across Scotland. Immigrant languages are occasionally offered to children in areas with high immigrant populations, however the emphasis is on English to encourage integration.

Modern Languages Excellence Report, Scottish CILT, 2011
Modern Languages Excellence Report, Scottish CILT, 2011
Modern Languages Excellence Report, Scottish CILT, 2011
The survey was carried out by TESS and reported as: ‘Poor language skills put Scots at disadvantage’, TESS 25/3/2011
‘Backlash from diplomats over language cuts’, Scotland on Sunday, 4/12/11

Languages in Further and Higher Education

Further Education (in three institutions)

 

Institution A Institution B Institution C

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages

R/ML

Regional/Minority Languages

FL

Foreign Languages

IL

Immigrant Languages
Range of language support programmes
 wide variety  limited  no specifications
none 3 none none 3 none none 3 none
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines
none 3 none none 3 none none 3 none
Level to be achieved
linked to CEFR national none not applicable
0 2 0 0 2 0 0 2 0
State funding available
full partial none
none 3 none none 3 none none 2 none

Additional NL
support

National Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages

Additional NL
support

National Languages
Range of language support programmes
 wide variety  limited  no specifications
3 3 3
Target groups
all restricted none
2 3 3
Curriculum
coherent and explicit general no guidelines
3 3 3
Job related skills
yes no
3 3 3
General upskilling
yes no
3 3 3
State funding available
full partial none
3 2 2
Internships in companies
built into course optional none
1 3 1
Use of EU instruments
yes no
1 3 1

Languages offered across 3 VET institutions in Scotland

R/M Languages

-

Foreign Languages

French, German, Spanish, British Sign Language, Italian, Polish

Immigrant Languages

-

Higher Education (in three institutions)

 

Institution A

Institution B

Institution C

Language(s) of instruction
 national, foreign and R/M national and foreign national only
1 1 1
Languages on website
 national, foreign and R/M national and foreign national only
1 1 1
Target groups for additional support in the national language
all restricted none
3 2 3
Level to be achieved in foreign language instruction
linked to CEFR national or institution-based none
2 2 3
Recruitment of non-national students
 international and immigrant only international only native speakers of national language
2 2 3
Mobility for language students
obligatory optional no offer
3 3 3
Mobility for non-language students
obligatory optional no offer
2 2 2

Languages offered across 3 higher education institutions in Scotland

Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Celtic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian

Scottish universities are suffering from severe financial pressures and this has led to fears for the future of language departments at some universities and the viability of lesser taught languages in particular. The Scottish Parliament has been petitioned to ensure targeted support for ‘strategically important and vulnerable’ languages in the same way that this exists in England. 

The most recently available data from the Scottish Qualifications Authority showed that modern language provision in the Scottish further education sector was on the verge of total collapse1. The analysis showed that a self-perpetuating belief among employers and skills forecasters that ‘English is enough’ had had a negative effect on language provision in both Further and Higher Education.

La Grande Illusion: Why Scottish further education has failed to grasp the potential of modern languages, Scottish Languages Review, Issue 23, Spring 2011, Hannah Doughty, University of Strathclyde

Languages in Audiovisual Media and Press

 

Glasgow

Edinburgh

Aberdeen

Number of languages on radio
>4 3-4 1-2 national language only
2 2 2
Number of languages on television
>4 3-4 1-2 national language only
4 4 4
Non-national language TV productions
subtitled dubbed
4 4 4
Non-national language films in cinema
subtitled dubbed
4 4 4
R/M language programmes outside of region
always regularly sometimes never
3 3 3
Availability of sign language on TV
always regularly sometimes never
3 3 3

Languages offered in audiovisual media and press across 3 cities in Scotland

Radio

Scottish Gaelic

Television

British Sign Language, Danish, Hindi, Panjabi, Scottish Gaelic, Senegalese

Newspapers

Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, Chinese, Polish

Radio programmes are offered mainly in English, but there is also daily Gaelic content available on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal. Television programmes are mainly in English and Gaelic but there are also broadcasts in Senegalese, Hindi, Danish and British Sign Language. Since 2008 a Scottish Gaelic BBC channel, BBC Alba, has been available on digital TV, satellite and online, with a weekly viewership of over 500,000 people. Foreign language films in Scotland are invariably shown in the original language with subtitles in both cinema and on television. However, foreign and R/M language radio and television are available via Freeview, online, satellite, for example. Sign language is regularly offered in important media events in all cities. Newspapers are available in a large repertoire of other languages in larger cities.

Languages in public services and spaces

Institutionalised language strategies at city level

> 4 3-4 1-2  national language only

frequency of practice: widely practised occasionally practised not practised

Glasgow

Edinburgh

Aberdeen

City council services

6 6 6

Website presence

0 0 0

Annual municipal reports

1 1 5

External or internal translators and interpreters

6 6 6

Competencies in languages other than the national language in job descriptions of staff members

1 1 1

Plan or scheme in place to increase skills in languages

4 5 0

Recruitment of speakers of other languages to support corporate objectives

4 0 0

Offer of training in languages to employees

1 6 0

Regularly updated record of skills in languages of employees

1 1 0

Reward or promotion schemes for being able to adequately communicate in other languages

0 0 0

Oral Communications Facilities

>4 3-4 1-2 national language only

Glasgow

Edinburgh

Aberdeen

Political debates and decision-making processes at the city council level

2 1 4

Educational services

4 4 4

Emergency services

4 4 4

Health services

4 4 4

Social services

4 4 4

Legal services

4 4 4

Transport services

1 1 4

Immigration and integration services

4 4 4

Tourism services

4 3 3

Theatre programmes

4 2 2

Written Communications Facilities

>4 3-4 1-2 national language only

Glasgow

Edinburgh

Aberdeen

Political debates and decision-making processes at the city council level

2 2 4

Educational services

2 1 4

Emergency services

4 4 4

Health services

4 1 4

Social services

4 1 4

Legal services

4 1 4

Transport services

4 4 4

Immigration and integration services

4 4 4

Tourism services

4 1 1

Theatre programmes

2 1 1

Languages offered in public services and public spaces across 3 cities in Scotland (N ≥ 2)

Scottish Gaelic, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), British Sign Language, French, Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, Panjabi, German, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Hindi, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Tigrigna

In the cities surveyed, police, courts, health services and local government all make extensive use of translation and interpreting services and there are efforts to provide written and online information in a variety of languages. Written communication is usually available in English and Gaelic and is available in a wide variety of other languages. The languages supported are defined by the languages of the communities being served. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have plans to increase the skills of their staff in Gaelic in accordance with the National Plan for Gaelic and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.

Languages in business

Scottish surveys of skills needs tend not to identify lack of language skills as a problem1. However, further investigation of such research has found that Scottish employers tend to circumvent rather than address language skill needs by exporting only to Anglophone countries or those where they can easily find English speakers2. There is clearly a linguistic dimension to the most commonly reported barriers to exporting – difficulties in finding trustworthy partners abroad.

Leitch Review of Skills, ‘Prosperity for all in the global economy: world class skills’ (2006), and Futureskills Scotland (2007), Skills in Scotland (2006), Glasgow, Scottish Enterprise
Modern Languages Excellence Report, Scottish CILT, 2011

Key Findings overall

As the Language Rich Europe research confirms, Gaelic enjoys a high level of political support and with the Gaelic Language Plan, as well as continuing demand for Gaelic medium education from parents. Its status is very different from that enjoyed by other languages spoken and used in Scotland. A study on community languages (the UK term for what LRE refers to as immigrant languages) published in 20061 found provision for children of school age to study 21 such languages in complementary classes, but nothing available for the remaining languages spoken, including Scots. The most significant provision was for Urdu, for which 42 complementary classes were identified, as well as some mainstream provision in primary and secondary schools, including opportunities to study the subject as a modern language. Although the issue of foreign language learning appears now to be creeping up the political agenda, there is clearly a need to continue to make a strong case for the social, cultural, intellectual and economic benefits to Scotland, as well as to invest in high quality training for teachers.

Provision for community language learning in Scotland, Scottish CILT/University of Stirling, 2006

Promising initiatives and pilots

The Scottish Government has recently set a target to work towards every child in Scotland learning two languages in addition to their mother tongue (as per the Barcelona European Council agreement). It intends to implement this over the course of two parliaments and has set up a working group which will report to Ministers with recommendations in 20121

The Modern Languages Excellence Group, chaired by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, has published a report which sets out clearly how the study of modern foreign languages fits within Curriculum for Excellence, and what needs to happen in order to secure, promote and enhance the provision of modern languages in Scotland2. It is very positive that standards have now been set, in accordance with the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference, for all children to reach by the end of primary school (A1) and after the first three years of secondary (A2). 

The Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages is another interesting and promising initiative, aimed at bridging the gap between school and university and providing skills for learning, life and work. 

Record of debate in Scottish Parliament 8/12/11, Scottish Parliament website
Modern Languages Excellence Report, SCILT, March 2011

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