Councillors’ non to mademoiselle

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Councillors have turned down the idea of bringing back foreign language assistants to Falkirk’s high schools.

A move to invest £64,000 a year to reinstate their role was defeated for a second time when the full council met.

SNP Councillor Gordon Hughes said claims by education committee convener Councillor Alan Nimmo that there was no evidence their 
re-introduction would improve standards in the classroom “did not hold water”.

He insisted: “They would improve communication skills, raise the confidence and self-esteem of the pupils and help them become succesful learners. The Scottish Government is investing £4 million expanding and developing modern language teaching in schools and I would like to see Falkirk Council being as ambitious.”

Councillor Tom Coleman said: “This administration is saying face-to-face contact is not needed. But learning a foreign language properly is done through conversation which builds fluency. For the sake of a few thousand pounds we are denying them an opportunity previous generations had. It’s a retrograde step.”

Budget cuts led to assistants who had played a role in supporting language learning during the 1990s being dropped from the payroll in 2010. Since then technology including video players and specialised microphones have been used. Experts say they are popular with youngsters.

At its meeting in January the education committee agreed to invest £64,000 in the latest ICT technology.

Councillor Nimmo said: “There’s no evidence to support the idea their re-introduction would improve attainment. It’s not a simple matter of moving money about.”

Director of education Andrew Sutherland said: “Our teachers are well fixed to take the face-to-face part forward. It’s important to emphasise the picture of language teaching across the district is very positive and upbeat.

“The model we are developing is robust and sustainable.”