Schools (Foreign Languages)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government how it will encourage the uptake of foreign languages at primary and secondary schools. (S6O-03140)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to language learning in our schools, which is why, since 2013, we have provided local authorities and third sector partners with funding of more than £50 million to support and implement our one-plus-two languages approach in Scotland. A 2021 survey of local authorities confirmed that pupils across Scotland are now learning languages from primary 1 and are continuing their broad general education throughout—an important change since the policy was introduced 10 years ago.

We continue to support modern languages through the support that is provided to schools by Education Scotland, and through funding to the University of Strathclyde, which hosts Scotland’s national centre for languages and provides professional learning guidance and advice to schools.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

We know that experiences abroad can be of huge benefit to learning a foreign language. However, because of Brexit, many students are losing out on that opportunity because of the loss of the Erasmus programme. How will students be supported to study abroad in lieu of Erasmus?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The member is correct to raise Brexit in that context. The Government remains committed to addressing one of the most damaging consequences of Brexit for schools, universities and colleges—the fact that United Kingdom students can no longer take part in the Erasmus+ programme. The Erasmus+ programme had a major impact on higher and further education in Scotland, with proportionately more students from Scotland taking part in Erasmus than from any other country in the UK, and proportionately more European Union students coming to Scotland on Erasmus than to anywhere else in the UK.

At school level, Erasmus+ was used primarily to support staff mobility and virtual exchanges between schools, as well as some school trips. In 2023-24, the Government is funding a test and learn programme to re-establish some of the opportunities that Erasmus+ provided, but which the UK Government’s Turing scheme does not.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

L ast Wednesday was international mother language day, which raised awareness of the opportunity to learn foreign languages at school and also of the importance of preserving languages. Will the cabinet secretary provide an update on work to revitalise Gaelic language education in primary and secondary schools?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The Government is taking a number of actions in relation to the Gaelic language, not least of which will be the introduction of a piece of proposed legislation later in the year to strengthen Gaelic provision across the country, including in relation to the teaching of Gaelic. I would be more than happy to write to the member on the details of that bill.