TEACHERS have warned an ambitious strategy to expand language learning in Scottish primary schools lacks direction.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said training for school staff was variable and had led to lower confidence levels in some areas.

The criticism centres on the Scottish Government’s flagship 1+2 languages policy under which primary pupils are to be taught at least two modern languages in addition to their mother tongue, starting in the first year of schooling and adding a second foreign language no later than P5.

The government has argued primaries should incorporate as large a pool of languages as possible, including Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Polish.

However, critics say schools and teacher training universities need a much smaller group of languages to focus on to ensure continuity of study and expertise among staff.

In a letter to councils, Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education, said information from primary teachers had identified training that was not of a consistently appropriate standard.

She said members had highlighted a “lack of direction” as to which languages would be taught at which stage as well as “variable quality of teachers’ experience of training course delivery”.

She also said there was “inconsistency” in the duration of training courses and therefore inconsistency in “outcomes for our members in terms of their levels of confidence to teach foreign languages”.

She added: “The EIS therefore calls upon all local authorities to work with Scottish Government to address the issues that are raised here, with a view to ensuring coherence of approach and adequate resourcing in order that the worthy aims of the policy can be met.”

The concerns were echoed by Gillian Campbell-Thow, chairwoman of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching.

She said: “We have raised the issues of training before and we agree there is variable access and quality. A lack of staffing available at authority level to lead this is a huge issue.

“There are example of authorities sharing training resources, but the needs of linguistically competent teachers are not being met and there are instances of teachers with degrees in languages having to attend courses for total beginners.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said local authorities were making good progress towards expanding and improving language learning in schools through 1+2.?

He added: “We have provided £21.2 million directly to local authorities over the last three years to help them implement 1+2, recognising the importance of teacher professional development within this.

“We welcome increased collaboration and strategic planning both within and across local authority areas as a key means of establishing sustainable, high-quality provision over time.”

The 1+2 policy was introduced against a backdrop of a historic decline in the number of pupils taking modern language Higher exams which has put some such as Russian and German at risk.