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.


The Scottish Government's Report 'Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach' was published in 2012. Local authorities and schools are now working towards implementation of the report. The aim is to enable children and young people to study two languages in addition to their mother tongue in all Scottish primary and secondary schools.

As parents/carers, you may have questions about the approach which we hope will be addressed below:

  • More than 75% of the world’s population does not speak any English at all. Having a grasp of other languages will enable your child to explore different cultures in more depth in order to become a true global citizen. 
  • Recent research also proves that an ability to speak more than one language actually boosts your brainpower. 
  • Very importantly, the Scottish economy needs a workforce with relevant language skills. We must, therefore, ensure that young people leave school equipped with the skills for learning, life and work they will need for a successful future in a global society. 
  • With the appropriate teaching methods, learning languages can be a fun and motivating experience. It gives learners a deeper understanding of how their own language works and develops their confidence and literacy skills.
  • Language learning has many social benefits; it helps children and young people understand and communicate with others. In this way, the skills learners acquire through learning additional languages will be immediately relevant to their lives in the communities where they live.

Find out more about these claims.

The ambition of the 1 + 2 model is that, by 2020, all children will start learning an additional language in their first year of primary school. Their studies in this language will continue until at least the end of S3 with opportunities to continue into the senior phase of secondary school.

Your child will be given the opportunity to explore another additional language no later than primary 5. This could be done through project work or a block of learning that explores the culture and the language of a country. The language work will be in enough depth to allow learners to go beyond basic words and will encourage them to experiment with the language so they can progress their language skills.

Whatever languages your child’s school decides to offer will be decided by careful planning between both the primary and secondary schools and will consider the needs of learners in both sectors.

The language your child starts in primary one can be any language as long as the school cluster can offer progression into secondary school and to qualifications in the senior phase. This continuity will ensure that learners have the opportunity to develop their skills in enough depth to allow them to go on to gain an SQA qualification.

In order to encourage linguistic diversity, the third language can be an exploration of any language that fits the particular circumstances of your child’s school; this could be Gaelic, Scots, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Polish, Urdu, Hindi, British Sign Language… the list goes on!

Ideally, secondary schools may also offer opportunities for learners to explore the same third language they learned in primary and further progress their skills in that language. This could be done through master classes, projects or electives and could be offered as an option leading to an additional qualification in the senior phase. Whatever language is chosen the learning experience should be high quality and should offer progression in all four skills: talking and listening, reading and writing.

Yes! The 1 + 2 approach applies to all young people in Scotland whatever their mother tongue. All language learning should be seen as important and should be recognised as an achievement. In this case, English could be considered the second language and your child would be given the opportunity to study a third language no later than P5.

In Scotland children and young people can be educated in either English or Gaelic. If you have chosen a Gaelic medium school, then your child will most likely be learning Gaelic through an immersion approach. That means that Gaelic will be the normal language of instruction in every classroom, with English introduced later in the upper primary stages. An additional language such as French or Spanish will be introduced no later than primary five in order to give your child the full entitlement to 1+2 languages. Some GME schools may even wish to offer more language learning should they wish to do so.

All children and young people in Scotland, including those with ASN, have an entitlement to learn another language at whatever level is appropriate to their needs. Children with ASN will, of course, be entitled to support and an appropriate curriculum to help them overcome any barriers to their learning. Parents may wish to discuss this with their school as part of the normal review procedures for support planning.

We will soon be publishing a leaflet, Making languages count for my child: A guide for parents on language learning entitlement in Scotland.

Find out more about the research used to produce this leaflet and access further links supporting  language learning entitlement for all learners.

Effective language learning and teaching will encourage children and young people to learn to use their literacy and language learning skills more effectively. Languages are interconnected; your child will be encouraged to see the links between languages and to recognise how languages work.

For some young people in Scotland, additional language learning from the early stages of primary school is already a normal part of life.

Languages will be embedded in the work that our children already do every day. They will use their language learning in the daily routine of the classroom as well as in projects with other curricular areas and in whole school celebrations. They will use a range of interesting, culturally relevant materials and technologies. Also, as they progress, they will use their skills to make links with local and international partners.

In primary schools, language learning will normally be provided by the classroom teacher or a teacher with responsibility for teaching a language, or a combination of both, depending on the school. In secondary schools, the teacher will be a modern languages specialist. You may also find that language assistants, people from business, parents and other language speakers from the wider community may work with the teacher to enhance your child’s language learning experience.

A positive attitude to other languages and cultures will go a long way to keeping your child interested in learning languages. In addition, you could:

  • discuss the benefits of language learning.
  • encourage your child to have fun with languages – label household objects, look at interesting language websites, read cartoons in another language, etc. 
  • ask your child to teach you what s/he has learned in school.
  • challenge each other to find words in their first language that come from other languages.
  • look for words that come from other languages used in advertising and packaging or in magazines, films and television programmes.

Visit the Parents section of our website for more ideas and some recommended resources.

1 Scottish Government (2012) Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach
2 Clinton, B. and Vincent, M. (2009) Leading the way: Co-ordinating primary languages. Young Pathfinder 16. London: CILT
3 Information about the Strategic Implementation Group on the Scottish Government website.
4 Modern Languages CfE Benchmarks, published March 2017 by Education Scotland
5 Christie, J., Robertson, B., Stodter, J. and O’Hanlon, F. (2016) A Review of Progression Implementing The 1+2 Language Policy
6 Spöring, M., Doughty, H. and de Britos, A. (2017) 1+2 Moving Back and Looking Forward

Thank you to everyone who participated in the consultation early 2017. While we are not able to address every single query that was submitted, these FAQs address the most common questions that arose in the survey.

In relation to queries around operational concerns such as teacher shortages or local funding, we refer you to your local authority representative.

All 35 recommendations in Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach1 (the 1+2 Approach) were accepted by the Scottish Government either in practice or in principal. The four recommendations that relate specifically to the entitlement to language learning were all accepted by the Scottish Government in full:

  • schools offer children access to an additional language from Primary 1. (Recommendation 1)
  • a second additional language (L3) be introduced for pupils […] no later than P5. (Recommendation 4)
  • language learning be recognised as an entitlement for all young people through to the end of their broad general education. (Recommendation 9)
  • that local authorities ensure that their languages strategy takes account of social deprivation challenges and of the different issues faced in urban and rural areas. (Recommendation 13)

There is an expectation of inclusion in the 1+2 approach. As such, L2 (the first additional language introduced in P1) should be a core subject until the end of the BGE in S3.
There is also an expectation that the planning/curriculum design required to meet the entitlement of languages for all will be evident in the departmental/school/cluster improvement plans.

See how schools in both mainstream and special education sectors are providing this entitlement for their learners in the Primary and Secondary case studies on the SCILT website.

Progression within and across levels in L2 and L3 is outlined in the recently published Modern Languages benchmarks and complemented by a subject specific exemplification film.

In addition, the 1+2 languages: progress from first to second level resource is specifically aimed at supporting primary practitioners in planning for depth and progression in modern language learning experiences.

Moderation also supports the development of a shared understanding amongst colleagues about what progression in L2 and L3 looks like for your learners.

In a recent interview with Fhiona Mackay and Julie-Anne Mackenzie from SCILT, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister explained the Scottish Government’s vision for language learning in the broad general education.

As outlined in FAQ 1, L2 should be taught throughout P1-S3, hence the importance of effective progression and transition in language learning (see FAQs 2 and 4).

Although there is no hierarchy of languages per se, L2 must be a language with a National Qualification available in the Senior Phase. See the SQA website for more information.

As per Recommendation 4, L3 should be started no later than P5 and should provide a meaningful language learning experience.

There is flexibility in possible models for L3 in both primary and secondary sectors. It is important that the chosen L3 model(s) are shared and understood to contribute as part of a cluster approach to 1+2 provision.

While there is expectation of a continuum model for L2 from P1-S3, there is not the same expectation for L3 from P5-S3. In some clusters there may be the capacity for primary and secondary staff to support the continuum model in L3 as well as L2. For other clusters, a model with a variety of L3 languages will be more appropriate. Under these circumstances cluster schools have the option of choosing an L3 which suits their local circumstances and allows them to capitalise on available resources.

While having a progressive L2 experience from P1-S3, learners are also entitled to an L3 experience at some point between P5 and P7 and then again at some point between S1 and S3.

The Further Guidance on L3 document published by Education Scotland (2015) provides clear sector-specific information and advice about how L3 can be delivered, including which languages and how much. Case studies are also featured.

Other useful points of reference may be the Primary and Secondary case studies on the SCILT website, and the 1+2 languages : L3 audit tools for use in primary and secondary contexts from Education Scotland.

Transition is a term often applied to pupils moving from primary school to secondary. Transition should be seen as a process. In the context of language learning, the issue is one of progression (see FAQ 2).

The 1+2 Approach states:

  • that primary and secondary schools work effectively together to ensure articulation between the sectors in terms of content, skills and approaches to learning and to enable effective transition, progression and continuity between P7 and Secondary, particularly for the L2 language. (Recommendation 8)

Establishing and maintaining effective communication and partnership between primary and secondary schools is vital. Galton et al. (1999 cited in Clinton and Vincent, 2009:772) suggest five bridges to facilitate progression and shared understanding across sectors:

  1. Administrative bridge– sharing information about pupils , good working relationships between primary and secondary school, feedback to primary schools of [S1] progress.
  2. Social and Personal bridge– induction days, open evenings, pupil peer mentoring, pupil and parents guides.
  3. Curriculum bridge– effective use of pupil data, cross-phase projects, exchange of curriculum maps, joint planning.
  4. Pedagogical bridge– shared understanding of effective teaching and learning, team teaching, teacher exchanges.
  5. Management of Learning bridge– pupils are active participants in transition and their own learning, pupil portfolio.

The Transition from Primary to Secondary page on the SCILT website features the European Languages Portfolio (ELP) and some sample approaches to transition. The ELP is a tool for learners to record their language learning experiences both in and out of the classroom. It may contribute to the management of learning. There are both downloadable and e-enabled versions available.

The recommendations in the 1+2 Approach related to initial teacher education (ITE) were accepted in principal by the Scottish Government:

  • that students undertaking a course of primary school teacher education have a languages qualification at Higher level, or equivalent (SCQF level 6) either on entering the course of initial teacher education or on its completion. (Recommendation 20)
  • that all students seeking to become teachers in primary schools undertake some study of the pedagogy associated with additional languages as part of Initial Teacher Education. (Recommendation 21)

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) accredits every undergraduate and post-graduate ITE course run by each of the eight teacher education institutions (TEIs) in Scotland. It is up to the GTCS and the TEIs themselves as to how these recommendations are put into practice.

Currently, the TEIs offer a variety of models for upskilling in language and pedagogy to primary student teachers. Some institutions offer specialist pathways while others offer electives or modules, optional and informal inputs. For more detailed information, please refer to the websites of the TEIs for information about specific courses and entry requirements.

University of Aberdeen; University of Dundee; University of Edinburgh; University of Glasgow; University of Highlands and Islands; University of Stirling; University of Strathclyde and University of West of Scotland.

The languages sub-group of the Scottish Deans of Education Committee (formerly the Scottish Teacher Education Committee, STEC) are in the process of producing a research-informed toolkit for TEI programme leaders which will be available next academic session.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Scottish Government has provided development funding to local authorities totalling £21.2 million. Local authorities have invested much of their allocation on professional learning. In addition, SCILT and CISS have received greater funding since 2013 in order to support professional learning and capacity building in both language and pedagogy of Scottish teachers, Modern Languages Assistants and Hanban teachers.

Different local authorities have developed different models of CLPL provision and chosen to spend their funding allocation in ways that meet the needs of their teachers and communities.

Languages upskilling opportunities may include:

  • week long immersion opportunities abroad funded by Erasmus +
  • immersion days in Scotland organised by cultural organisations
  • Primary Language Learning (PLL) courses – varying length, i.e. once a week for 6 weeks e.g. Douglas Academy case study

Related CLPL opportunities may include:

  • PLL pedagogy workshops
  • Training associated with resource packages
  • TeachMeets
  • Moderation: across schools, across clusters
  • showcase events and conferences
  • international partnership arrangements
  • local authority/cluster languages development roles
  • working with native speakers i.e. Chinese language assistants (CLAs), modern languages assistants (MLAs), primary languages assistants (PLAs), Hanban teachers, family and community members

To recognise the commitment involved, several of the extended CLPL opportunities have Professional Recognition accreditation from the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Professional learning for upskilling can take place both in person and online and amongst other providers, may be facilitated by: local authority staff; the Alliance Française; Asesoría Edimburgo; British Council; Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS); Education Scotland; Goethe-Institute; Institute Français; Open University for Scotland; Scottish Association of Languages Teaching (SALT) and SCILT, amongst others.

The varied professional learning provision goes towards building the capacity of the workforce, and addresses several recommendations from the 1+2 Approach:

  • that local authorities should provide regular opportunities for primary and secondary languages staff to work together and to undertake shared CPD opportunities. (Recommendation 22)
  • that universities work together as a consortium of university providers to support delivery of the 1+2 policy and that languages departments in universities play a greater role in working with schools subject to appropriate funding. (Recommendation 23)
  • that teachers with an interest and aptitude for languages teaching be supported in developing the range of languages in which they are qualified or trained to teach. (Recommendation 25)
  • that GTCS promote improved professional standards in language teaching and encourage teachers to gain qualifications and accreditation in languages for example through raising awareness of professional recognition processes available to teachers. (Recommendation28)
  • that schools and local authorities consider the engagement by schools of other skilled and trained native speakers of additional languages to work under the direct and explicit supervision of the classroom teacher in schools. (Recommendation 31)

For details of the provision of professional learning opportunities in your area, please contact your local authority representative.

‘We will introduce a norm for language learning based on the European Union 1+2 model – that is we will create the conditions in which every child will learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue. This will be rolled out over two Parliaments, and will create a new model for language acquisition in Scotland.’(SNP manifesto, 2011: 26)

The 1+2 Approach recommended the establishment of a Strategic Implementation Group (SIG). In January 2016, at the mid-point of the implementation period, the members of SIG agreed that a successful language policy in schools is necessary but is not sufficient to ensure the sustainability of the new approach. As a result, a second group - the SIG Engagement Group3 – was set up, charged with the remit to seek to change attitudes in the wider society to demonstrate the relevance of language learning 2016 – 2021.

Evaluations of the initial ten 1+2 pilot projects that were undertaken in 2012-13 showed that there was a need to provide support for assessment of progress and that age appropriate resources were required. Since then, the CfE4 benchmarks have come into play and many more free and commercial language learning resources are now available to schools.

Published in June 2016 A Review of Progress in Implementing The 1+2 Language Policy5, undertaken by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), found that in general, the 1+2 initiative had been seen as a popular aspect of broad general education by the teachers, parents and learners interviewed as well as a high level of commitment from local authorities. A direct link between the pace of implementation and the level of funding was identified.

The ADES Review highlighted the need for sustainable career-long professional learning from ITE onwards and the importance of learner progression right across the broad general education. Reflecting these and other issues, and following extensive consultation, the University Council for Modern Languages Scotland (UCMLS) has recently produced a cross-sector collaborative action plan6 to address the existing needs in the system.

Learners and their families, communities, businesses and educators all have roles to play in achieving sustainable language learning for all young people in Scotland.

The ambitions of the 1+2 initiative align very much with the National Improvement Framework and the principles and practices of the Curriculum for Excellence.

‘The Scottish Government's ambition is to expand and improve language learning, by 2021, so that our young people are equipped with the skills and competencies they need in our increasingly globalised world.

The Curriculum for Excellence provides Scotland’s young people with a rich context for learning of which language learning will be part. By 2021 every child is entitled to learn a first additional language from primary one and a second by primary five. This entitlement continues until the end of S3.’ (Scottish Government website: Language learning)

In March 2017 John Swinney, Deputy First Minister explained how the 1+2 Approach can contribute to narrowing the attainment gap and the place of language learning amongst the current priorities in Scottish education.

Existing examples of innovate practice in making connections between languages and other areas of the curriculum include:

  • Developing the Young Workforce: see how SCILT and CISS have, and continue to support schools in developing their learners’ employability skills through the Business Language Champion partnerships, the Business Brunch showcase events and the publication of job profiles.
  • Equity: see the Languages for all and the EAL & Bilingualism pages on the SCILT website for support.

The implementation period for the 1+2 Approach lasts until 2020/2021. Undoubtedly there is further work that needs to be undertaken to monitor the extent to which the wider ambitions/aims of the policy are being achieved.

Parent leaflet

Languages in a nutshell

Explains how the 1+2 Approach will be put into practice and why learning languages is so important. Suggests ways parents can support their child’s language learning.

Produced by SCILT in partnership with The National Parent Forum of Scotland.


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