Teach Scots to kids as standard says leading head

While Gaelic is seeing an upsurge, Scots is being allowed to die out, say advocates. Picture: Neil Hanna
While Gaelic is seeing an upsurge, Scots is being allowed to die out, say advocates. Picture: Neil Hanna
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SCOTS should be put at the centre of the Scottish Government’s initiative to promote language learning in the country’s schools, it has been claimed.

Headteacher Isabel Lind said the Scots language was a valuable educational tool and should be included in the 1+2 initiative, which seeks to have children learning two foreign tongues alongside English at primary school.

Ms Lind, who picked up the Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Pearson Education Awards in London last year for her 44-year career, said Scots was an obvious choice for one of the languages.

“I would like Scots to be one of them,” she said. “If we don’t do something, it will die out. People don’t necessarily know which words are Scots, they are just words we use in everyday speech. There are over a million people speaking Scots according to the census and 58,000 speaking Gaelic.”

“I want my children [pupils] to be bilingual. We need to love language, and I celebrate the words the children bring from home or their grannies.”

Ms Lind’s Aileymill Primary in Greenock focuses heavily on music, poetry, drama and dance, and Scots plays a key role in language learning. But despite her focus on the arts, she criticised Curriculum for Excellence, which was introduced in 2010, for lacking “rigour”.

“What worries me about Curriculum for Excellence is the balance,” she said. “Learning is not always exciting – you need that rigour. I think there’s a danger it’s not there, and that’s my worry. It’s a mistake to throw out the baby with the bathwater and some of the excellent work that went on with the [previous] 5-14 curriculum.”

A report published by the Scottish Government’s Modern Languages Working Group in 2011 called for a “radical change of approach” in language learning. But giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, experts warned the plans to teach two foreign tongues in primary school are unrealistic. They said the lack of suitably qualified teachers would hold up attempts to introduce languages.

There is also a debate about whether schools should stick with languages such as French and German, or put more emphasis on Mandarin and the languages of emerging economies.

The drive to introduce foreign tongues in schools comes despite falling numbers of languages assistants in the classroom.

Both the British Council and consul generals of France, Germany, Italy and Spain have previously warned the Scottish Government about the dwindling numbers of native speakers working in Scotland’s schools.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting all of Scotland’s languages. The teaching of Scots can be incorporated into the 1+2 programme. The appointment of Scots language co-ordinators in schools also has the potential to open up different ways of promoting Scots through learning and teaching.”