Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are asking primary school head-teachers across the islands to make sure parents understand the benefits of Gaelic Medium Education (GME) as the education department moves to a ‘Gaelic-first’ policy from next school year.
 
The Comhairle decided at its last meeting that all Primary 1 children will be enrolled in GME in 2020/21 – unless their parents specifically request otherwise.
 
Now education director Bernard Chisholm has written to head-teachers to ask that they share the responsibility of making sure parents know that the new policy is in place, and of ensuring they know where to get support if they are not Gaelic-speakers themselves.
 
In a letter circulated to head-teachers yesterday (Wednesday January 15th) Mr Chisholm said: “Currently, in many of our primary schools, more than 50% of children are enrolled in GME at P1.
 
“We want to see this number grow in order that we both retain our language and provide all our children with the many benefits blilingual children gain through the acquisition of another language.
 
“It will be necessary in some circumstances to explain in detail the benefits of GME and provide an opportunity for some parents to access others with more information in relation to the additional resources and supports available, particularly for non- Gaelic-speaking families.”
 
The Comhairle’s education committee approved the proposal to make GME ‘the default position’ for children under P2 at their meeting on December 3rd 2019. At the same meeting they decided to target engagement with prospective parents and ‘pregnant mums’ as routes to increasing take-up of GME.
 
It was decided that a dedicated 0-3 years GME development officer for the Western Isles should be appointed by June this year. A Gaelic medium immersion centre on a model already adopted in Wales has also been proposed.