A new website to support parents as they attempt to support learning at home with children in Gaelic Medium Education has been launched by Stòrlann Nàiseanta Na Gàidhlig.

The Gaelic educational resources organisation has created a mini site, www.gaelic.education/ to make it easier for parents to navigate the different learning resources for various stages of school. 

On the main home page, there are clear signposts to resources for Early Years, Primary School and Secondary School (Tràth-ìrean, Bun-Sgoil and Àrd Sgoil) and the website also has a range of links to other useful sites under a ‘Parents’ tab. There is a useful link to the suite of Gaelic reading books used in schools. This feature provides home learners with targeted reading material as advised through home-school links.

Stòrlann chief executive Donald W Morrison said the organisation is keen to rise to the challenges presented by the new homeschooling context. He said: “First and foremost, I would like to state my admiration for the teacher and parent partnerships that are working diligently to maintain a positive learning environment for Gaelic Medium learners. Stòrlann’s intention is to support and resource such remarkable efforts to facilitate Gaelic learning at this strange and challenging time for all. As the range of content available online can be quite overwhelming, Stòrlann has worked to simplify access to resources through the creation of a single, shared site that is open to all — complete with added open channels of professional support for parents and pupils.”

The new platform shares common elements with www.gaelic4parents.com, Stòrlann’s main website for supporting learners and families in Gaelic Medium Education (GME), but is condensed and presented differently, in the context of the school closures and the wider coronavirus lockdown.

The website also bears a rainbow theme – which ties in with the pictures of rainbows as symbols of hope, drawn and painted by children across the country.

In addition to the new website, Stòrlann have also increased access to the teachers who provide its online ‘Homework Help’. Teachers Angela MacMillan and Jane MacAskill who provide the additional support for GME families at primary school level, can now be messaged through the new website. A similar feature is available for pupils in Secondary with Emma Burrows and Mairi MacRitchie on hand to assist. The chat system works on Messenger and is in addition to the separate Homework Help live chat, which runs from 5pm to 7pm on weekdays. Outwith these times, parents can send messages or queries through Messenger and will get a response. 

Jim Whannel, Director of Education at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “We welcome very much this new development from Stòrlann Nàiseanta – supporting parents and carers with an easy to use portal which directs them to a variety of supportive resources. The Covid-19 pandemic presents a wide range of challenges and this newly created portal will make it easier for parents to find and select additional support materials.”

For more than 10 years, Stòrlann’s main Gaelic4Parent website has offered a range of support to children and parents with an interest or involvement in Gaelic education – most crucially, those parents who have no or little Gaelic themselves. It is mainly targeted towards the Early Years (age 0 to 3) up to P7 and features a variety of ways children can learn Gaelic while having fun.

It features an extensive collection of audio books online, including all the Storyworlds books which are normally given out by schools as reading homework, and parents are reminded that they can access these so that their children continue to hear Gaelic.

The collection of audio books – there are nearly 300 altogether – also includes popular titles from the Gaelic Bookbug series and Gaelic versions of hit English language books such as The Gruffalo (An Gruffalo) by Julia Donaldson. 

As well as listening to the stories, if children have any of these books at home, in traditional paper form, they can follow the words on the page at the same time as listening. 

To find the audio books, search for them in the “Read Aloud” section of Gaelic4Parents.

Games are also available on the Gaelic4Parents website, so that children can have fun while they learn. There are also songs to learn – research has found that music helps language acquisition – and pictures to print off and colour in.

For those on social media, it is worth following the Gaelic4Parents page on Facebook for updates. It is also possible to access informal support this way too, in addition to Messenger and Homework Help. Stòrlann staff will answer questions posted directly on the page.

Stòrlann Chair, Gillian Campbell Thow, said Stòrlann hoped parents would feel supported by the new website and enhanced provision, and pointed out that there are benefits from parents being so involved in the learning process. She said: “A language-rich home environment for children is vital to their development and progression. This resource gives parents and children more exposure to Gaelic language in contexts that are relevant and age appropriate. At a time when parents are worried about how to best support their children in their education, this is an excellent resource to engage with — plus live teacher support is available too!”