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Hilary McColl taught French and English in England, France and Scotland until 1996. In the last two years she was seconded to what was then the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department to undertake a 2-year project looking at how the national policy of 'Languages for All' was being implemented in the case of pupils with special educational needs. The project resulted in a compendium of advice which was issued to all secondary schools in Scotland - Europe, Language Learning and Special Educational Needs.

Until 2003 she worked with the Higher Still Development Unit and was closely involved with the development of Access level qualifications in Modern Languages. She has also lectured, undertaken research, provided professional development and published articles on teaching and learning in modern languages, all in the context of inclusion.

Latterly, working with Catriona Oates, then of Scottish CILT, she supervised projects in schools wishing to improve foreign language provision for a wider range of abilities. This work was adapted for online delivery as Maximising Potential. Now in retirement, she produces material to support primary school language teachers.

Being deaf herself, she has a special interest in the linguistic aspirations of learners who are deaf.

Research and publications and MFL projects

photo of website owner: Hilary McColl
photo of contributor: Margaret Crombie

Dr Margaret Crombie, an experienced teacher and lecturer, formerly Support for Learning Manager and Quality Improvement Officer for Highland Council, Scotland, is now an Educational Consultant specialising in Dyslexia. She is an Associate Lecturer for the Open University and a panel member of the University panel for associate membership of the British Dyslexia Association (AMBDA). She has considerable experience in the assessment, teaching and support of dyslexic children and adults, and has conducted research into the learning of foreign languages in school. She is a former trustee of the Scottish Dyslexia Trust and served as a director of Dyslexia Scotland for several years. She is a member of the British Dyslexia Association Accreditation Board. She has lectured throughout the UK and overseas on a variety of aspects of dyslexia. She was on the steering group for the First International Conference on Multilingualism and Dyslexia held in Manchester in 1999.

Margaret has contributed to many other publications and taken part in a number of working groups considering various aspects of dyslexia. One of these was the 'Count Me In: Responding to Dyslexia' project. This was a joint initiative consisting of The Scottish Dyslexia Trust, the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh, Dyslexia Action, Education Authority personnel and a parent.

Margaret previouly chaired a working group in Scotland which developed an online tool to help teachers recognise and assess dyslexia as well as provide for appropriate teaching and support. Sections are regularly being updated and added to the Toolkit to help support parents, carers, young people and local authorities to ensure appropriate help and provision for those with dyslexia during the nursery and school years. The development was supported by funding from the Scottish Government and overseen by Dyslexia Scotland. The Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit can be freely used. It will continue under a new Chair as Margaret is now winding down towards retirement.

Research and publications

Vivienne Wire was formerly Principal Teacher of the Communication Centre at Loudoun Academy in East Ayrshire, Scotland. Her experiences have convinced her that pupils with autism should be offered the same opportunities for language learning as other young people and that they can benefit from them.

Vivienne's seminal study on teaching languages to learners with Asperger's syndrome is published on this site.

photo of contributor: Vivienne Wire
photo of contributor: DavidWilson

For 37 years, David Wilson taught French, German and students with special educational needs at Harton Technology College in South Shields in the North East of England. His principal research interests lie in the field of modern foreign languages (MFL), special educational needs (SEN) and information and communication technology (ICT). In 1990, around the time when the National Curriculum for England and Wales first mandated MFL teachers to meet SEN and to use ICT, he served as Assistant Coordinator of the National Flexible Learning Project (North East) Modern Languages, whose main focus was the inclusion of all MFL learners through ICT. He has presented at conferences in the United Kingdom, Hungary, Canada and Japan.

Several organisations, including the British Educational Communications and Technology agency (BECTa) and the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), have commissioned him to write articles and to provide specialist advice about MFL, ICT and SEN. Schools and universities have invited him to run teacher-training workshops. He contributed to the 2005 European Commission report about languages and special needs.

David's research papers, cross-curricular portals and teaching materials for MFL learners with SEN can be found on his website at He posts regularly on many educational forums, often in response to colleagues and parents seeking advice and assistance about MFL and SEN. Though officially retired, he still works two days a week on a voluntary basis within the special educational needs department of the school where he taught for almost four decades.

Projects, presentations and publications

Contact address:

Anne Thirkell is a primary school teacher and has taught a range of stages from nursery to P7 through the medium of Gaelic. She has worked as a Curriculum Support Teacher in Aberdeen City supporting primary schools with Science and the Eco Schools programme, and is currently a Teaching Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen. Much of her work is with undergraduates studying to be Gaelic medium primary teachers, and her role as Programme Course Co-ordinator for PGDE (Primary) Distance Learning and MA/BSc with Education degrees involves working with a wide range of students.



We are most grateful to the graduate and post-graduate students and their institutions who have allowed us to publish some of their work on this site: Fabrizia Baso, Susan Bremner, Margaret Chalmers, Anne Stoppock, Zrinka Mendez, Eileen Basford, Emma Rees, Holly Price, Karin Raffa and Maria Usón.

Mary Simpson kindly allowed us to make use of a table from her 1994 study What's the Difference?

Thanks to Deirdre Martin and Carol Miller and their publishers Taylor and Francis for permission to reproduce Chapter 5 of their work on planning differentiation for pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties; and to Private Eye and artist Colin Wheeler for permission to reproduce their cartoon.

Illustrations drawn specially for the site are by Heather Clarke.


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