A 1+2 Approach

The Scottish Government’s policy aims to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn an additional language from primary one, and a further additional language by primary five.

A 1+2 Approach

Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people are equipped with the skills they need for life and work. Every learner in Scotland should learn an additional language from primary one, and a further additional language by primary five. This will continue until they reach the end of S3. This ambition contributes significantly to the Scottish Attainment Challenge agenda.

Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach

We will take action to help young people develop the skills and knowledge they will need in the workplace in particular in the areas of STEM, digital skills and languages.

Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A delivery plan for Scotland 

Latest progress in implementing the 1+2 languages policy

The Scottish Government, in partnership with ADES, COSLA and Education Scotland, carried out a survey of local authorities last year to gauge progress to implement the 1+2 languages policy in schools. A full report of the findings from this survey has now been published this week. Among the key findings is that nearly all primary and secondary schools are now delivering language learning throughout the Broad General Education from P1 to S3.

1+2 languages policy - local authority survey 2021: findings (Scottish Government, April 2022)

1+2 and attainment

The work of the Scottish Attainment Challenge is underpinned by the National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence and Getting It Right For Every Child.

The key priorities are:

  • improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children
  • improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing 
  • improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations

for all young people.

Each of these priorities is addressed through the effective delivery of languages.


Research demonstrates that language learning can enhance literacy skills and narrow the attainment gap.

W. P. Thomas and V. P. Collier. NCDPI (2010)

This report studies the impact of ‘two-way dual language’ programmes, implemented in North Carolina. English language learners and native English speakers are educated in the classroom together in both English and another languages (the home language of the English learners). The curriculum is presented in English part of the time and a second language at least half the time (Spanish, Chinese, French, German or Japanese).

North Carolina contracted researchers to look into the effectiveness of dual language programs in addressing the gaps in achievement between students whose first language is English and those whose first language is not English.

Key findings

  • Overall, reading and maths scores of students in two-way dual language education were higher for all dual language students, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, level of English language proficiency, or special education status.
  • When English language learners, African American native English speakers, students of low-socioeconomic and special education status – groups which typically see significant achievement gaps when compared to white native English speakers – participate in dual language programs, their achievement gaps are smaller.
  • Low socioeconomic status may be a primary factor affecting differences in reading and maths achievement for some groups of students, but three years of analyses show that dual language programmes significantly address the achievement gap for low socioeconomic students.

V. A. Murphy, E. Macaro, et al. Applied Psycholinguistics 36 (2015)

This study investigated whether learning a second language (L2) in primary school has a facilitative effect on first language (L1) literacy. In addition, the study considered whether there is an advantage to learning an L2 where the written symbols closely represent their significant spoken sound (in this case Italian compared to French).

Key findings

The results presented in this paper suggest there are definite benefits from learning an L2 on L1 literacy skills. The study supports the point that apart from the obvious benefits of learning an L2 – including learning basic L2 language, having a greater appreciation for another culture and providing a good basis for later L2 learning at secondary level – L2 learning can be viewed as language awareness training: developing an appreciation for, and understanding of language as a system of sounds, words, and structure that can be manipulated in different ways. L2 learning at the primary level and heightened language awareness can lead to improvements in the developing L1 in the primary school learner.

For research demonstrating the links between language skills and employability, please visit the Employability pages of our website.

Some arguments for the case for languages having a positive impact on health and wellbeing can be seen on our Beyond School pages.

University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages