SCOTTISH schools are ready to deliver controversial new examinations, government ministers have said.

Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, said everything was now in place for the new National Qualifications, which have replaced Standard Grades.

Thousands of pupils will sit the new exams from next week, but their introduction to schools has been criticised by teaching unions, with unacceptable workload, poor communication and confusing materials all highlighted.

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However, Mr Allen said the evidence from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and curriculum and inspectorate body Education Scotland was that schools were ready. The statement came as Mr Allan unveiled an extra £1 million funding to boost plans for pupils to learn two foreign languages in primary school.

Ministers have said they want children to start learning their first foreign language in P1 and another no later than P5 by 2020. The new funding means £5 million will be available for languages in schools in 2014-15.

Mr Allan said: "The economic and cultural opportunities that can be unlocked by learning a second or third language for both the individual and Scotland as a whole are vast."

"There is already excellent work happening in classrooms every day, but to meet our longer term ambitions and to prevent the slight reduction in the uptake of languages, it is absolutely imperative that we do all we can to continue to prioritise language learning in schools."

Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said: "The announcement of any additional resources to schools is very welcome, but we have been clear that it will require significant and ongoing investment to see this policy realised."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: "This increase in funding will hopefully go some way towards undoing the damage caused by the SNP Government's cuts. Since coming into office the number of foreign language assistants in Scotland has dropped by around 80%."