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The annual conference for Gaelic education practitioners takes place in Aviemore tomorrow (Wednesday, October 2) and Thursday, October 3, and is being opened this year by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney.

More than 170 delegates from all over the country will attend the An t-Alltan conference of workshops and other learning opportunities, which takes place in the MacDonald Aviemore Conference Centre and has been organised by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig, based in Seaforth Road, Stornoway.

The opening address by John Swinney, is one of the expected highlights, along with a preview of a new resource aimed at teaching Gaelic to learners in the early years environment.

Confirmation that Mr Swinney will open the conference was met with appreciation from Stòrlann and hailed as further evidence of high-level Government support for the language by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The new online resource to be previewed at the conference is Gàidhlig nan Òg – still under development at Stòrlann but which will provide parents/carers and early years practitioners with an abundance of themed resources to help use Gaelic in the home and early years settings in a functional yet fun way.

Gàidhlig nan Òg features a series of presentations to teach words and phrases plus supporting soundfiles, illustrations, songs, stories and activities, as well as a guidance document with suggestions on how best to use the resource.

Although aimed at early years practitioners for their day-to-day interactions with children aged 0-5, Gàidhlig nan Òg will also support adult learners, including those who are completely new to Gaelic, and parents wanting to support their children on their Gaelic journey, regardless of whether the parent is a beginner learner, more advanced or fluent.

The resource is presented in themes, including the face and body, numbers, colours, daily routines, the weather, animals and pets, outdoor learning, topical themes such as Halloween and Christmas, and nursery rhymes and traditional songs.

It also contains a transition document, which early years practitioners can use to record a child’s progress and pass on to primary one colleagues and parents. 

A launch date has not yet been set but Gàidhlig nan Òg developer Jackie Mullen said she was looking forward to sharing a preview of it at the Alltan. 

She said: “I’m really excited about it because everyone I’ve told about it has asked, ‘when is it available?’ which shows there’s an appetite for it. It’s positive for me to be presenting on something that I anticipate will be really well received when it’s out there.”

She added: “For the early years, there’s nothing like it that’s available. I think early years practitioners had been tapping into the Go! Gaelic resource which is great but it’s much better to have something that’s been specifically designed with early years in mind.”

The An t-Alltan conference is an annual professional learning opportunity for Gaelic educationalists and is being held for the 11th time this year. It is an opportunity to look at new resources and initiatives for teaching and learning and is two days of talks, workshops and twilight sessions, catering for all practitioner levels from early years through primary to secondary.

It is also a networking event, bringing together Gaelic education practitioners from across the country, but the focus is very much on the workshops and information sessions. 

Donald W Morrison, Chief Executive of Stòrlann Naiseanta na Gàidhig, said: “It is an honour for Stòrlann to facilitate two action-packed days of learning, sharing and networking opportunities for Gaelic early years and education practitioners.

“With Alltan 2019 coming as it does, in the International Year of Indigenous Languages, people are all the more aware of the crucial role that languages play in people’s daily lives and the immeasurable worth of giving our young citizens another window on their world and an open door to the riches of Gaelic culture and identity.”

Jim Whannel, Director of Education with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig and our Education team are looking forward to An t-Alltan 2019.

“We are delighted that the Deputy First Minister will be opening the conference – this is very encouraging for us in Gaelic Medium Education and further evidence that the Scottish Government, at the highest level, is supporting our system.

“With a focus on successful practice and professional debates about the solutions to the challenges we face, there will be plenty opportunities, over the two days, to scrutinise the way ahead for Gaelic Medium Education, building on our objectives in the Adhartas nas Luaithe/Faster Rate of Progress initiative.”

There are nearly 30 workshops at this year’s An t-Alltan, with five specifically for early years practitioners, 12 for primary, three suitable for primary and secondary practitioners and eight for secondary. There are a further six twilight sessions and four information sessions. 

Workshop topics include ideas for playing outside, how to identify and support children with language disorders, editing skills for FilmG, school-level strategies for promoting wellbeing and inclusion, and leadership skills.

Many companies and agencies with an interest in Gaelic education also have a presence at An t-Alltan, from Bookbug to Tobar an Dualchais, and an opportunity to discuss language acquisition methodologies with a Gaeilge education training-consultant from Northern Ireland. Feedback from delegates is always positive.