Pupils in the majority of Scotland’s council areas are now learning languages in their first year in primary school, with the Scottish public clearly supporting the early emphasis on other tongues.

Minister for Learning, Dr Alasdair Allan, met young people speaking French, Spanish and Gaelic when he visited Edinbarnet Primary School in West Dunbartonshire today.

He said the Scottish Government had made a commitment in 2011 to introduce the model in every council by 2020, meaning every primary school pupil would start learning a first additional language in P1 and a second by P5. This would continue until the end of their third year in secondary school at least.

The minister said that five years on, 21 out of 32 local authorities would be delivering the first additional language for P1 by the end of this school year, with all councils expected to meet the commitment by 2020.

Dr Allan’s school visit follows the recent publication of figures from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA) that show 89 per cent of people in Scotland think that learning a language other than English in school from the age of five is important.

The minister said: “In today’s global, multi-cultural world it is more important than ever that young people have the opportunity to learn languages from an early age, to equip them with skills and competencies for the globalised economy.

“We want to ensure the enthusiasm for languages starts at an early stage in a child’s education. Here at Edinbarnet, it’s great to see that happening in P1, at a time when a majority of councils are now meeting the commitment.

“The inclusion of language learning at P1 is an exciting new development in Scottish education and a sign of how our schools are adapting to meet the needs of our young people and Scotland’s future under Curriculum for Excellence. The fact that so many Scottish people recognise the value of languages, as recognised by the recent SSA survey, underlines its importance.”

Michelle McGinty, Labour-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council's Convener of Educational Services, said:

“Since the start of the policy, children in West Dunbartonshire have embraced learning new languages. Having the skills to be fluent in more than one language is vital in today’s market as it increases the number of job opportunities and provides children with skills that could allow them to work around the world in multinational organisations.

“Our teachers and support staff have also done a great job in their creative and fun way they teach the languages and I am delighted Edinbarnet Primary has been chosen for the visit as this highlights the great work being carried out at the school.”