Senior Phase

Essential documents for languages in the Senior Phase.

Essentials for planning

SQA updates

SQA Qualifications

Overview of National Qualifications (SCILT, November 2018)

An 'at-a-glance' overview of SQA qualifications in languages, in table format. 

National 4 

We have extracted the key points from SQA documentation on National 4 to provide an overview of the content and assessment requirements of this new qualification:

National 4 Added Value Unit

Advice from the SQA indicates:

'It is an SQA requirement that centres use the SQA Added Value Unit for the first two years. In terms of Modern Languages, this does not mean that centres have to use the context or texts provided in the SQA AV unit. These are intended to illustrate a possible approach. What centres have to do is to apply the SQA structure , Judging Evidence and conditions. Centres should select their own context and appropriate texts of N4 standard. These texts will not require to be submitted for prior verification.'

Further information and course support notes are available on the SQA website

National 5 

The course specification for National 5 has been updated following the Scottish Government announcement that unit assessments will no longer be mandatory from session 2016-17 at this level.

We have extracted the key points to provide an overview of the content and assessment requirements of this new qualification:

Further information can be found in the SQA course specification.

SQA held a National 5 webinar in April and May of 2017 which was repeated in September and October. This outlines the changes to Performance of Talking and provided details of the new Assignment-Writing and its requirements.

You can view the National 5 webinar on the SQA website. It can be found under the CPD webinar/audio and support tab.

A question and answer booklet has also been developed by the SQA to help address concerns arising from the changes to National 5. 


Further information and course support notes are available on the SQA website.  Here you can also find tables which outline some of the changes for each of the new Higher Courses in comparison with the existing Higher Courses. This is intended to help teachers/lecturers identify what is changing, and what will remain the same, within their subject. The information in these tables is not exhaustive, but provides links to more detailed subject documentation that can be accessed from the SQA's subject pages. Course comparison documents can be found on the 'Related Information' panel on the relevant subject pages on the SQA website.

Concerned about pupils opting out of languages at the end of S3? Why not consider offering alternative provision? The Modern Languages for Life and Work award is now available at SCQF levels 5 and 6, as well as the original levels 3 and 4.

The Languages for Life and Work award gives learners the opportunity to study up to two languages in a more vocational context without the pressure of a final exam! Not only will learners who study for the award develop language skills, but they will also develop skills which they can take into the workplace.

It is also worthwhile noting that the award for Languages for Life and Work, unlike the National Qualifications, can be undertaken by learners during the broad, general education or in the senior phase, whenever best suits their needs.

Further information on this is award available on the SQA website - Modern Languages for Life and Work Award.

The SQA Scottish Languages Baccalaureate allows young people to continue with the study of two languages so it fits very well with the aims of the Scottish Government's 1+2 language policy. You can find out more about the requirements of the award on the SQA website.

Keep young people engaged with languages in the senior phase

The Interdisciplinary Project (IP) is an essential component of the Baccalaureate but can also be taken as a stand-alone unit. There is a substantial body of evidence that it develops self-confidence, communication skills and learner autonomy, thus preparing young people very effectively for the demands of higher education study. Where schools find it difficult to offer the full Baccalaureate award we therefore would encourage them to consider offering the IP as a stand-alone unit or combining it with a ‘Languages for Work Purposes’ unit at Higher or Advanced Higher level. These options may be of interest to senior pupils who would like to keep up their languages but whose main focus is on science subjects. 

Past candidates have relished the demands of the IP and chosen a wide range of topics to investigate, making links with universities, colleges, organisations and companies both in the UK and abroad in the process. Presentation methods have included talks, seminars, open days, films, web pages, learning activities/games, e-magazines and information leaflets. 

SCILT support for the Languages Baccalaureate / Interdisciplinary Project

We would be happy to:

  • provide advice and guidance to staff so they can outline the benefits of the Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages/Interdisciplinary Project to young people, parents and senior leaders.
  • offer assistance and advice to candidates enrolled for the Interdisciplinary Project, in the area of research and research skills.

Please email to find out more.

Further reading

The Scottish Government’s policy, Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach, is aimed at ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn a modern language from P1 onwards. Additionally, each child should have the right to learn a second modern language from P5 onwards. The policy should be fully implemented across the country by 2020.

The following documents are relevant to the 1+2 policy in Senior Phase:

To access all documents, recommendations and resources relating to the 1+2 policy, visit the 1+2 section of the SCILT website.

LENS is a resource bank of studies and research findings from national and international contexts. These findings help us to unravel the complexities of language teaching and learning and why things happen the way they do in classrooms. Key messages from over 300 studies have been organised according to specific themes relating to language teaching and learning in the curriculum.

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Modern Languages during a pandemic: how instructional videos, Conti’s MARSEARS framework and strong routines have enriched my practice. Sonja Fedrizzi. Scottish Languages Review (Issue 36, 2021)

In this article the author reviews how she adapted her teaching in response to the challenges faced in modern languages due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the switch to blended learning. The author introduces methods and digital tools that helped her engage with students remotely, but that will also be useful in the classroom. She also discusses how she adapted Gianfranco Conti’s EPI method for blended learning.

Pedagogy and Curriculum for Excellence: Finding the Opportunities. Louise Whyte. Scottish Languages Review (Issue 34, 2018)

This article is a personal reflection of how the languages department in an inner-city school addressed the impact of changes brought about by Scotland’s new education policy, Curriculum for Excellence.  It outlines the opportunities that the department seized to promote languages within the new arrangements whilst addressing a range of challenges including learner engagement, language diversification, and structural changes in the curriculum.

Modern languages and inclusion in the context of Scotland's 1+2 language policy. Maggie MacAskill. Scottish Languages Review (Issue 31, 2016)

This article discusses equality of access to modern languages education for all students and looks at changes in thinking about who should be included in language lessons. The author argues that policies relating to modern languages education in Scotland need to be refined in order to help all teachers to develop good practice and strategies to ensure that language learning is fully inclusive.

Access the latest research on language teaching

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