Bòrd na Gàidhlig made an announcement earlier this year to invest £150,000 towards the establishment of e-Sgoil, an initiative that looks to access more curriculum subjects in Gaelic through online classes, across the Western Isles, and further afield.
While still in its infancy, the project has already had a positive effect on children currently in Gaelic education by enabling children to access classes through the medium of Gaelic that might not be available to them within their own school.
e-Sgoil classes are currently being provided to Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen from a teacher based in Shawbost School on the Isle of Lewis. Following an initial face-to-face meeting with pupils, Mrs Cathy Mary MacMillan now delivers her lessons through a video conferencing package known as Vscene three days a week.
Angus MacLennan, Headteacher of e-Sgoil said: “The response from pupils, parents and staff involved in the Hazlehead pilot has been very positive indeed. This is also the case with regard to Higher Religious, Moral and Philosophical Education being delivered from The Nicolson Institute to Sir E Scott School, Harris, and fiddle lessons being taught on-line from Stornoway to Uig primary school. These examples are helping us to test the technology, establish protocols and identify training needs which will be of benefit when it comes to rolling out provision locally and nationally.
e-Sgoil’s aim is to respond to demand from pupils, schools and local authorities in order to provide equity in terms of curricular choice and ensuring that staff and resources can be utilised as effectively and efficiently as possible with regard to Gaelic and Gaelic-medium education. Staff from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland Region and Argyll and Bute are working together to identify curricular requirements, staff availability and continuous professional development opportunities which can be dealt with collaboratively.
“e-learning is not about replacing good classroom teaching. It is more a case of providing a service when teachers aren’t available and adding value to what is already being delivered.
It is also about helping schools to embrace the use of technology at which our young people are already so adept and harnessing it for educational purposes. Ensuring that Gaelic is in the vanguard of such developments is something that I’m particularly pleased about.”
Bòrd na Gàidhlig Director of Gaelic Education, Mona Wilson said: “It is extremely reassuring to already see the positive effects the e-Sgoil project is having on the education of pupils, and also on the language within Scotland. It is a significant step in furthering developments in Gaelic education by creating a Virtual School which enables pupils, educators and their supporters to make the full use of technology to achieve the outcomes firmly embedded within the Curriculum for Excellence. It also provides a mechanism for using teaching staff more effectively, providing peer support and creating appropriate timetables.
“The e-Sgoil is quickly and effectively enhancing opportunities for pupils, particularly those involved Gaelic-medium education secondary courses and it is also an excellent example of partnerships between schools and Local Authorities coming together for the benefit of education within their authorities.
“Bòrd na Gàidhlig is delighted to be able to support such an initiative where technology is aiding the education of the younger generation and where pupils are being stimulated by a blended learning approach which complements other studies. We look forward to a continued close working relationship with the project as it further grows and develops in the coming months and years.”