Teachers from the Highlands will be gathering in Plockton tomorrow (Wednesday) for a training day that marks the beginning of a new phase of Gaelic language learning in primary schools in the region — and indeed Scotland.
Around 25 teachers from 16 schools are expected to take part in this inservice day, being hosted at Plockton High School in Wester Ross.
It is the first training session in an 18-day series to teach them how to use the Go! Gaelic programme of online resources — created by Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig and aimed at enabling primary teachers working in English Medium Education to teach some Gaelic to their classes.
For most of the teachers taking part in the training, the course is also aimed at giving them, personally, enough Gaelic so that they are able to teach it with confidence.
But there will be others attending who already have Gaelic and bespoke workshops are being provided, apparently for the first time, that take account of their existing knowledge and look at ways in which they can help to bring Gaelic out of the lesson and into the general life of the school.
Go! Gaelic is a vast online suite of sequenced resources designed to support teachers and created by Stòrlann, the Gaelic educational resources organisation based in Stornoway but with a responsibility to schools teaching Gaelic all over Scotland.
Go! Gaelic does not aim to deliver fluency, unlike Gaelic Medium which is immersive in nature, but is designed as a complete introduction to the language. It is expected to appeal to adult learners as well but its main function is to support Gaelic teaching in English Medium primaries.
It has been designed to fit in with the Scottish Government policy Language Learning in Scotland: a 1 + 2 Approach, which is aimed at ensuring every child has the opportunity to learn an additional language from primary one onwards and a third thereafter.
This policy stipulates that, additionally, every child should have the right to learn a second language from primary one onwards — and the policy aims to be implemented across the country by 2020.
As a language course, the structure of Go! Gaelic has been designed to build on previous learning. And, as a child progresses through it, their successive achievements should match up to the formal list of ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ that a teacher will look for under the different stages of Curriculum for Excellence.
The course, which covers 20 topics including introductions, feelings, weather, pets and hobbies, has also been designed to sit well within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is the Europe-wide guide to language learning, setting out what kinds of topics, words and sentence structure should be taught — and with what increasing difficulty — in order to give a learner the best chance of success.
Go! Gaelic has followed this type of progressive model, for example with the Core Language part of the programme and How the Language Works, which explains grammar features such as sentence structure.
The programme, which can be found online at www.go-gaelic.scot, includes a wealth of resources that can be used in the classrooms, from worksheets and Powerpoint presentations to posters, revision cards, planners and more. It also features audio files – songs as well as vocabulary – plus a series of 20 short films, based on the ‘Cafe Lily’ theme and each one matching one of the topics, to reinforce learning in an entertaining way. There is also a Go! Gaelic App available.
The use of technology has been seen as key to the success of the programme and is one of the reasons Highland Council adopted Go! Gaelic as their preferred method of delivering the language.
Norma Young is Area Care and Learning Manager for Highland Council with responsibility for Gaelic. She confirmed: “We’ve adopted Go! Gaelic as our preferred means of delivering Gaelic to our teachers to enable them in turn to deliver it on a regular basis to their classes.”
Praising the programme’s “interesting and innovative approach”, she said: “We feel that the resources and the approach are modern, new, exciting and will capture the interest of children because children are much more discerning these days.
“They’ve grown up with IT. Images need to be more interesting, brighter and more colourful because that’s what they’re used to. That’s what Go! Gaelic will give them.
“The language is the same. The acquisition of the language is the same. It’s the delivery that’s much more interactive, attractive and meets the needs of modern technology and the way children learn. Children are no longer passive learners — we want them to interact.”
She added: “This is the first tranche of teachers coming through using this method and we are excited about that. The potential is huge and we’re looking to reach greater numbers of teachers, using this method.
“It’s an exciting time for Gaelic. ‘An t-ionnsachadh òg, an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach’ (young learning is beautiful learning).”
Stòrlann chief executive Donald Morrison said Go! Gaelic “fills the gap” between Gaelic and English Medium Education, providing “pupils outwith Gaelic Medium with the opportunity to engage with Gaelic.”
He said it had been structured to provide the ideal base, should a learner want to progress to fluency. “But even if you don’t become fluent it raises your awareness of the relationship between the language and the people, the culture and the place where you live and that serves to provide you with a better understanding of Scotland in general.”
Funding assistance for Go! Gaelic came from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Scottish Government and the Gaelic Language in the Primary School consortium.