Group – Rionnagan Beaga
Town or Area – Bishopbriggs
Local Authority – East Dunbartonshire
About Rionnagan Beaga
We are a voluntary sector Gaelic group for children aged 0-5, managed by a committee consisting of parents. We meet every Tuesday 12.15-2.15 during the school term. This consists of lunch, free play, Gaelic songs, games, play and tidy up. We also meet on a Friday from 9:15-10:45 during term time. This consists of Gaelic songs, stories and some free play.
Our group has been running for 6 years now. We have always been a voluntary-led group and in the past year we have expanded by adding in a Friday session to ensure both sessions can be tailored age appropriately.
On a Tuesday we aim our sessions at 3-5 year olds. Our attendees usually come from a young age, so it is important to adapt the sessions from just songs and stories to include arts and crafts and more interactive games in Gaelic.
Our Friday morning sessions are aimed at 0-3, so we run when the local nursery is on to allow the focus to be on the younger children and we place the emphasis on the songs and stories. This has allowed us to improve the quality in each session for children and their families.
We average 16 children per week on a Tuesday, although the room can hold 24, with parents included we are at capacity. On nicer days we can make use of the outdoor space we have.
At present we have 4 members on the committee, all of whom volunteer their time to help the group work. No one takes travel expenses as they attend the group with their children and as such when their children move up to school, we recruit a new volunteer.
The key responsibilities of our volunteers are to open up the room, set up the kids packed lunch area, prepare tea/coffee for adults joining the group, tidy up the room after everyone leaves and lock up the church.
The funding provided by Bòrd na Gàidhlig is only spent on the key overheads – rent and wages for the Gaelic play leader. This is the minimum we need to offer the full service to any families that would like to join us, even those from out with our local authority.
Anything else we provide we ensure we are generating enough income from fees to cover i.e, arts and crafts, holiday special sessions for Halloween, Gaelic Santa experience, Easter special and a final party of the year to say farewell to those moving up to school.
We regularly chat with all parents about what they want from the group and as such have grown over the years from Gaelic songs to having a Gaelic library and offering arts, crafts and games.
Face to face communication and feedback is key, but we also use questionnaires.
Future steps, COVID-19 response
When COVID hit and social distancing was in prospect, we knew we wouldn’t be able to open, we acted quickly working as a committee to have a plan of action. We set up a Whatsapp group, and making videos with familiar voices and faces that mixed voice and visuals with stories providing comfort and support for children and parents alike. These are available on Facebook so other groups involved in Gaelic Early Years can use them.
Our group has gone from strength to strength contributing to the success of Gaelic Medium Education in East Dunbartonshire, with the Primary 1 roll at Meadowburn Primary School for 2019/20 was 16, the biggest group that the School has seen entering its Gaelic stream.
A challenge and an opportunity is that the Gaelic Nursery in East Dunbartonshire will be extended from August 2020, and children will have access to Monday -Friday 9am-3pm. This is great news as we believe more people will start the GME journey but it will obviously affect our group from August 2020. Our committee are in talks just now with how best to go forward to provide a family learning experience and a place for children to use their Gaelic learning within their local community.
We work closely with the nursery and our local Comann nam Pàrant but most certainly could not make the service as inclusive as possible without the support of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Thank you!
Opinions on Rionnagan Beaga
Rionnagan Beaga is a crucial element of the Gaelic learning experience. It provides an opportunity for children and parents/grandparents/carers to hear and learn Gaelic in a fun and social environment. Equally as importantly though, it allows a sense of community to be established amongst the adults who attend, as well as the children.
Thanks to the group, I personally am way more immersed in the Gaelic community and have made links and friends. Jaime and the team behind the scenes go out of their way to provide fun learning resources (even more so for occasions like Christmas with Gaelic Santa) and keep everyone informed. Thanks so much for all you do! – Hilary Mack, Parent
Great space, great variety of toys and great mix of English and Gaelic. Which was helpful for a non-Gaelic speaker! – Parent.
Really welcoming and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Just wish you were a bit closer to home. (Shawlands) – Parent.
Lovely community feel to the group, everyone was so welcoming. I was concerned at first due to my limited Gaelic but I was made to feel at home straight away. – Parent.
I love going to toddlers because I can take my packed lunch and play with my friends. My favourite bit is playing under the parachute with Eilidh. My favourite game is Dè ‘n uair a tha e, Maighstir Madadh-allaidh? – Callum, age 4