PUPILS are missing out on vital language learning because of a lack of qualified staff, experts have warned.

Currently, teachers in Scottish schools need only one language to qualify as a modern languages teacher.

However, under the Scottish Government 1+2 policy all pupils are now expected to learn two modern languages until the end of the third year of secondary school.

Gillian Campbell-Thow, president of the Scottish Association of Language Teachers (Salt), said only a shake-up of teacher training could deliver the policy.

Speaking after the annual Salt conference at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, she said: “The Scottish Government policy should give every child the chance to learn two languages, but you cannot deliver the policy if you don’t have dual linguists.

“At the moment, universities will accept graduates who only have one language and, while they would encourage them to have a second teaching subject, that may not be a language.

“A lot of people would welcome a bold move by the Scottish Government to say you cannot be qualified as a language teacher in Scotland unless you have two languages.

“If the government is suggesting we should be delivering 1+2 in schools then there has to be a move from them to support that with better qualified staff.”

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Maureen McKenna

Maureen McKenna, executive director of education for Glasgow City Council, backed the call at a speech to the conference, on Saturday.

She said: “We need to have a closer look at the opportunities for young people entering into initial teacher education. If we want 1+2 to be embedded we can’t just leave it to local authorities.

“Surely it must be time to look at the postgraduate course for language teachers. Can we really agree that one language is enough?”

The call comes at an uncertain time for modern languages in Scottish schools.

Recent figures seemed to indicate that a long-term decline in the number of pupils studying languages at Higher appeared to have been reversed.

However, numbers have dropped significantly over the past decade with the decline blamed on the fact many schools no longer see them as compulsory, despite school inspectors calling for them to be a "core element" in the first three years of secondary.

In addition, as part of cuts to education budgets, two-thirds of local authorities have scrapped foreign language assistants, although some are now reinstating them.

A recent report by the Scottish Government's Languages Working Group said a decline in language learning at Scottish schools and universities was costing the economy at least half a billion pounds every year.

Under 1+2, all pupils are expected to be learning two languages, in addition to their mother tongue, by the time they leave primary.

The plan, which councils are expected to deliver by 2020, brings Scotland into line with many other European countries where learning a second language starts in early primary school and learning three languages is common.

However, critics have argued the target is far too ambitious and is not being supported sufficiently with funds or adequate training for teachers.

There has also been criticism from representatives of a number of European countries including Germany, Switzerland and Austria who said some language learning had actually declined.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are encouraged that the 1+2 policy is being implemented throughout Scotland, but clearly there is more to do to ensure children get as much choice and opportunity as possible to learn a language. We are continuing to invest in this policy, providing local authorities with an additional £7.2m in 2015-16 to drive this work forward, in addition to the £9 million invested in 2013-15."