GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Gaelic education: your ideas wanted

With six Gaelic-medium education (GME) schools now in place, a further four planned over the next five years, and more than 5,600 children now being educated in the medium of Gaelic, it is seen by some as one of Scottish education’s real success stories. It certainly is when you consider that the first Gaelic-medium unit opened in a Glasgow primary school in 1985 with just 14 pupils.

There is no denying the ambitions of Bord na Gaidhlig for Gaelic to grow further at a faster pace and have an even wider impact, as set out in its National Gaelic Language Plan 2018–2023 (see bit.ly/national-gaelic-language-plan-2018-23).

The importance placed on this plan for education was signalled by John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, who chaired a seminar on Gaelic education in Perth in early August. Attended by some 40 key players and influencers from Scottish education and the wider Gaelic world, the seminar explored some of the current developments in, and challenges facing, Gaelic.

The role of Gaelic as part of Scotland’s culture and heritage, and its contribution to the Scottish economy were all highlighted at the seminar. Amid the various conclusions made at the seminar, what was most apparent is the critically important role that education must play in supporting all aspects of the plan and the drive for the continuing growth of GME.

All of this comes at a time when we are trying to address the challenge of attracting more teachers into the teaching profession in Scotland and, importantly, retaining them in our schools. Nowhere is this challenge more difficult than in attracting teachers of Gaelic.

While much more needs to be done to attract and retain teachers of Gaelic, it is important to remember what is already in place, a taste of which is set out below.

  • Gaelic teaching courses are available at Sabhal Mor Ostaig and the universities of Edinburgh, the Highlands and Islands, and Strathclyde.
  • The Thig gam Theagasg campaign promotes Gaelic teaching as a career with school visits and presentations at careers and educational events possible: www.teagasg.com
  • There are education grants available through Bord na Gaidhlig for Gaelic teaching students and top-up grants for those changing to a career in Gaelic teaching who are ineligible for support from SAAS for course fees.
  • The SQA offers a variety of Professional Development Awards (PDAs) in Gaelic topics which are designed to extend or broaden professional or vocational skills and are linked to National Occupational Standards.
  • Strathclyde University runs a one-year, full-time Gaelic Immersion for Teachers (GIfT) course which is designed for qualified teachers who have intermediate Gaelic language competence (such as Higher or equivalent) and who are committed to working in GME, either in the primary sector or as a muchneeded secondary subject specialist teaching through the medium of Gaelic.
  • Learngaelic.scot provides a wide range of resources and information for learners and those seeking to improve their Gaelic skills.
  • Sabhal Mor Ostaig delivers a programme of short courses during Easter and summer, as well as distance learning courses for beginners.
  • As well as producing resources for schools, Sorlann, the national Gaelic education resource creator, also supports parents who are not Gaelic speakers through Gaelic for Parents.

The seminar in August ended with a commitment by organisations to better share, link and make more effective connections in support of Gaelic. GTC Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council were asked to promote further networking among others and to look at ways in which the recruitment and teacher education of Gaelic teachers could be improved. Four other Gaelic networks were charged with looking at digital learning and the senior phase curriculum, the economy and labour market, community connections, and encouraging greater confidence in the use of the Gaelic language.

It was also stressed at the seminar that more innovative and “disruptive” actions were needed to drive further the ongoing revitalisation of Gaelic.

A good example of this is the recent creation of E-Sgoil, an online, virtual Gaelic secondary school that provides connectivity between secondary schools throughout the Western Isles and beyond. As an online learning environment, E-Sgoil aims to offer greater quality of subject access, vocational choices and learning opportunities for Gaelic-medium secondary schools nationally. It also enables teachers to share lessons and materials. E-Sgoil is a small but potentially important step in changing the face of Gaelic education. Some suggest it may even be the first step in an even more radical way in which we deliver secondary education across Scotland in the future.

GTC Scotland is committed to supporting the Gaelic education agenda and we are keen to hear your ideas. If you have any suggestions on what more might be done to take forward Gaelic education generally or, more specifically, on how the recruitment, teacher education and retention of Gaelic teachers could be improved, please contact us at:

gtcs@gtcs.org.uk