Gaelic Community Officers Network

Gaelic Community Officers Network

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is pleased that the delivery of a professional support network for Gaelic community officers is about to start.  It will be delivered by a partnership of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of Aberdeen and Comunn na Gàidhlig.

There is a growing number of third sector organisations which employ Gaelic officers working with various communities in Scotland. Many of these roles are funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig along with other public bodies, and many of the officers are the sole Gaelic officer within a wider organisation.

The officers work in a range of sectors – youth work, business, environment, arts – and most are employed in Western Isles and Highland, with some based in Argyll & Bute, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are some 40 f/t or p/t roles.

The network will provide professional development and learning, opportunities for knowledge exchange as well as increasing collaboration and providing peer support.  Following the first year, the work will be evaluated to determine future developments which may include the creation of a vocational programme for Gaelic officers.

Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said “We recognise the importance of officers working with a range of communities on increasing the use of Gaelic.  We wanted to provide additional support for them, many of whom are young people, particularly to increase collaboration, peer support and opportunities for professional development and learning.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the Gaelic communities in which the Gaelic Development Officers work. It is important these individuals are given the support and training they need to enable them to meet the expectations of our communities and I hope that this project delivers on our aims.

“I am also pleased to say that the Scottish Government has also provided Bord na Gàidhlig with an additional £150k of funding which will allow more Gaelic Development officers to be recruited to help support our vernacular Gaelic communities.  This will strengthen the support already available in these areas.”

“These officers are extremely important to Gaelic development efforts in the community, whatever specific sector they work in,” said Dòmhnall MacNèill, Ceannard, Comunn na Gàidhlig. “We recognise that their work is challenging and we want to provide them with an opportunity for practical support in their day to day work – whether that comes from simply speaking to another officer in the new network, or from the training and development opportunities we will establish.”

Michelle Macleod, Professor of Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen, added, “I am delighted to be participating in this really exciting initiative. My previous research with community language animateurs highlighted the importance of these individuals in having real impact in Gaelic communities. My research also showed that employees in such a crucial role need supported, as working in a community situation, while hugely rewarding and enjoyable, can sometimes be isolating.  This new network will give individuals the opportunity to come together to support each other and to develop their professional skills in a way that is beneficial for the communities they serve.”

Gillian Munro, Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said, “We are delighted to work together with our colleagues, at the University of Aberdeen and at Comann na Gàidhlig, to help establish this exciting, new support and training network for Gaelic development officers in Scotland. It is important to stress that this network is being set up solely for the purpose of supporting Gaelic development officers in their work, to provide training opportunities and as a forum where officers can meet and share experiences, and that it is not our intention, or the Bòrd’s intention, to direct the work of the officers in any way. The final goal, at the end of the first-year pilot period, is that we will step back, and the officers will take over administering the network for themselves as their own independent professional association.”

She encouraged anyone working in such a role who has not been contacted yet to get in touch with the lead contact on the project, Tim Armstrong at ta.smo@uhi.ac.uk.

Board Meeting 18.03.2021 – Bòrd na Gàidhlig

18.03.2021 

Bòrd na Gàidhlig today agreed to take forward projects which will strengthen Gaelic usage, with a strong focus on island and rural communities.  In recognition of the challenges caused by COVID-19 to school pupils in Gaelic medium education (GME), £212k of funding has been awarded to Comann na Gàidhlig, Comunn nam Pàrant and Fèisean nan Gàidheal to deliver additional activities in Gaelic for young people.  The Board also agreed the funding of a pilot scheme worth £154,000 which will be taken forward in collaboration with Community Land Scotland.

Press release here.

Gaelic Medium Education on offer in North Ayrshire for the first time

Bòrd na Gàidhlig welcomes the news that North Ayrshire is set to offer Gaelic Medium Education for the first time with a new provision set to open in August 2020.

It will be located within Whitehirst Park Primary School, Kilwinning, with the post of Principal Teacher Gaelic advertised this week.

This is the first successful application for Gaelic Medium Education (GME) under the Education Act (Scotland) 2016 and Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s Statutory Guidance on Education.

In August 2017, Bòrd na Gàidhlig advised and funded a group of parent volunteers who wanted to set-up an early years’ playgroup in North Ayrshire.  The volunteers worked extremely hard on this campaign and since 2017, the interest in GME has continued to grow.

Parents submitted a formal application to North Ayrshire Council on 24 January 2019 and after the first assessment, the council concluded that they were willing to introduce GME.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig welcomes this news and its Director of Education, Jim Whannel, who was involved in the developments said:  “Bòrd na Gàidhlig are extremely happy that Gaelic Medium Education will now be offered in North Ayrshire and we are indebted to the parents and council for their progress with this.  Bòrd na Gàidhlig wish them every success and we look forward to continue working closely with them in the months ahead.”

Applications are now open for enrolment for GME at the school in Kilwinning.  Whitehirst Park Primary’s  Deputy headteacher, Louise Johnstone, said:  “This is exciting news and we are all looking forward to welcoming our first intake of pupils in August.  It is a real privilege to be the school chosen to deliver Gaelic Media Education for the first time in North Ayrshire.

“We are collaborative in our approach to this new provision and we are working with the council’s Education service and, of course, the parents to ensure we provide the best possible learning environment.”

Caroline Amos, Head of Service for Education at North Ayrshire Council, said :  “We were very receptive to the wishes of the parents as ultimately we want to deliver services and education that meets their needs.

“The parents are really keen and excited by this. We will now recruit a principal teacher who will help us move forward and ensure we are ready to open in August.”

Pamela Jardine, a parent who has been heavily involved in the campaign from the beginning said:

“We are just over the moon that our daughter will be attending a new GME unit in the summer, it is a dream come true and we think she will really enjoy her primary years at Whitehirst Park.  It has been a long journey, but the help and guidance we received along the way from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and North Ayrshire Council made it relatively easy to do.”

It is hoped that the new Principal Teacher Gaelic will be in post after Easter allowing them time to prepare for the August start date.

This great news means that there are now 15 local authorities in Scotland with GME.  This is the first rise in council numbers since Inverclyde Council opened GME in Greenock in 1999-2000.  North Ayrshire Council is the first local authority to offer GME in 21 years (to 2020-2021).

Bòrd na Gàidhlig agreed to North Ayrshire’s Gaelic Language Plan in 2014 and since then there have been many encouraging results including: supporting Gaelic education developments, Gaelic arts in the community and a new bilingual corporate logo.