There are three types of Gaelic pre-school groups normally available. They are: parent and child groups, playgroups and early learning and childcare provision.

Parent and Child

A parent and child group is one where parents and carers and their children meet for a chat and to play in Gaelic. These groups are for children aged 0-5 and they give people – who intend to send, or are considering sending, their children to Gaelic-medium Education – a chance to meet. These sessions include games and songs and children and parents have the opportunity to learn Gaelic or speak in Gaelic in a friendly and supportive setting.

In some areas these groups are referred to as playgroups. No matter what the name, the main characteristic which marks these groups as Parent and Child groups is that the parents and carers attend the group along with their children and remain with them. Although these groups do not form part of the state education system, they do offer children and parents the first step in learning Gaelic or joining the Gaelic education system – the first step, and a very important one. In the school year 2018-19, there were over 1400 children attending pre-school voluntary groups for 0-3 years.

Playgroups

Parents and carers can leave their children at a playgroup under the care of Gaelic-speaking staff where their children will hear and learn Gaelic. These pre-school groups are aimed at children aged 2-3, before they enrol in their early learning and childcare provision. The children will play, sing, create and engage in all sorts of other fun activities in the playgroup.

Early Learning and Childcare (ELC)

When a child is aged 2-5 years old they can enrol at a Gaelic early learning and childcare provision before attending school. The majority of ELC’s are run by Local Authorities, and they are more often than not associated with a primary school which offers Gaelic Medium Education. The children’s education is based on the Curriculum for Excellence and the teaching is done entirely through the medium of Gaelic. The education a child receives in a Gaelic ELC ensures that they will have a reasonable level of fluency in the language before going on to primary school.

Beginning the path to bilingualism

The different levels of Gaelic ELC education give children a wonderful opportunity to both play and learn in Gaelic. If they already have Gaelic, then they will be able to refine their language skills in addition to all the other things they will learn. If they don’t have Gaelic, children will learn a new language as they progress through the various stages of their ELC education. This will be the beginning of the path to full bilingualism.

Resources and Support

Bòrd na Gàidhlig have developed an Early Years Toolkit to give Gaelic parent and toddler groups information and guidance on how to establish new groups. You can access more information here.

Find out how our funding has helped groups in these case studies.

There are a range of useful resources available from publishers such as Acair Ltd and organisations such as the Gaelic Books Council, and parents and children can access a lot of useful materials and information from websites such as Gaelic4Parents, Stòrlann’s ‘Gàidhlig nan Òg’ and Learn Gaelic. You can now also find Gaelic Bookbug sessions in certain areas, where parents and children can take part in various fun Gaelic activities such as singing and storytelling. Comann nam Pàrant also run a Parental Advisory Scheme with staff who provide information on Gaelic Medium Education and the opportunities there are.

In February 2020,  the new guidance ‘Realising the ambition: Being Me’ was launched for the Early years in Scotland.  This guidance will support and inform services in the Early Years and Childcare sector which may be helpful to your group and to your staff.  In the coming year, we will inform you of  training opportunities relating to this resource.