The Scottish government recognises the value of speaking more than one language; Scotland however is behind many European countries in the area. To help address this and ensure that children in Scottish have the advantages of being able to speak other languages, the “1+2” policy is being rolled out.
“1+2” means that every child will speak their mother tongue and also have the opportunity to learn two additional languages. One of these languages will be taught from primary two until at least third year in secondary school and the other will be taught from primary five. We think that this can provide a great opportunity to teach languages that reflect the makeup of the school- such as Polish, Urdu or British Sign Language. Learning these languages can help children from ethnic minorities feel a part of the school- giving them the opportunity to speak to their Scottish friends in their native language, and creating the chance for their parents to get involved in the school. We already know about schools who have invited parents from ethnic minorities to come in and read stories in their native language or teach a class to count to 10 in Urdu and their children have blossomed in confidence.
From our recent session with deaf parents in Glasgow we know the difference it can make to parents as well for children to be learning their language. When we mentioned that British Sign Language was one of the languages that children could be taught their faces lit up- this could mean that children in the playground would be able to talk to them and give the parents a sense of being part of the school. However asking parents to teach their mother tongue can be a real challenge- standing in front of a class and teaching can be very daunting and we feel that support is needed to help parents develop the capacity to get involved in this way.
From working with language schools we know that many of them would be very interested in making closer links with local schools, including the Glasgow Chinese School. The “1+2” policy brings a lot of potentially great opportunities to get parents from ethnic minorities more involved in their children schools, but we recognise that there will need to be a lot of support in place to help make it a reality over the next few years.