Scots Language in Curriculum for Excellence

A quite remarkable follow-up report from the 2015 3-18 Literacy and English Review, published by Education Scotland and even earning an editorial in the Herald. The research identified good practice in using Scots in schools as part of CfE, with particular emphasis on the role Scots can play in developing literacy skills, encouraging learner engagement and their increasing confidence and self-esteem.

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A wide range of activities were observed in selected primary and secondary schools; Scots used in group discussion, analysis of speakers’ use of Scots, working with Scots in texts and some translation and creative writing. Teachers spoke to the class mostly in Scottish Standard English, using only occasional Scots phrases. However a small number of teachers spoke Scots to the class. Interestingly in these cases, “most children and young people spoke Scots in response, demonstrating their understanding of the teacher’s use of Scots and their own proficiency in using the language” (p5). Frequent use of Scots words helped learners increase their vocabulary and confidence in the language. They also thought it raised the status of the language, encouraged them to use it themselves and generally improved relationships in the classroom, “as a result of learners feeling their language was valued”.

What caught the eye was how Scots positively impacted on other areas (e.g. The Herald, 7 Sept 2017). Scots can assist learners develop the skills required for success in national qualifications in English. Most teachers agreed that the use of Scots can help to engage reluctant learners and the use of Scots “gave some lower-attaining children the confidence to take on leadership roles for the first time”. Teachers in one secondary school felt that allowing pupils to use Scots “removed the barriers to learning experiences for some, and created opportunities for them to access the curriculum”. The report found evidence that the use of Scots resulted in improvements in some lower-attaining pupils’ writing skills, motivation and behaviour. The report concluded,

“There is clear evidence to confirm the educational benefits of including Scots in Curriculum for Excellence. Scots can support children and young people to develop a range of important skills in literacy, including advanced reading and writing skills required for success in national qualifications. Scots as part of Curriculum for Excellence can support young people in developing their confidence and a sense of their own identity. It can help to engage learners whose mither tongue is Scots by making them feel more valued and included, and therefore more motivated to take part in lessons, to lead learning, and to achieve more highly” (p 7).

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