Gaelic Education in Scotland at Primary level is delivered in two main forms:
- Gaelic Medium Education
- Gaelic Learner Education
Both types of Gaelic provision are equally important for the development and health of the language, although both look very different and are delivered in distinct ways.
Gaelic Medium Education
Gaelic Medium Education in primary school has been at the heart of developments regarding the language and culture in Scotland since it began in the 1980s. Through immersion in the language, the Curriculum for Excellence is delivered in its entirety, learning about every subject in Gaelic whilst providing bilingualism naturally. This national system of education is equal in status and reputation with English Medium Education .
Gaelic Medium Education is offered in a growing number of Gaelic schools and Gaelic Units within schools in a number of local authorities in Scotland. For the most up to date list, click here.
The benefits of Gaelic Medium Education for children are not insignificant. In addition to the cognitive benefits from bilingualism and the personal and confidence benefits from knowledge and respect for the Gaelic culture and other cultures, research shows that children who go through Gaelic Medium Education match or exceed the levels of attainment of their mono-lingual contemporaries in English Medium Education.
O’Hanlon (2010) Gaelic-medium Education in Scotland: choice and attainment at the primary and early secondary school stages (summary)
Immersion in Gaelic Medium Education
In Gaelic Medium Education pupils should be taught entirely in Gaelic for the first three years in primary school. This full immersion is very important and it means that children do not need to be able to speak Gaelic when they begin Gaelic Medium Education in primary school although it is recommended that children go to early year groups and Gaelic Medium nursery schools if they can. Gaelic Medium Education should also improve greatly on the language skills of those children who already speak Gaelic.
After P3, English skills are brought in little by little through the medium of Gaelic but Gaelic is still the main language of teaching for every subject and every part of the curriculum. When pupils reach P7 their language skills in English are in general better than children in monolingual education.
Immersion in the language should continue until the end of primary school with an expectation that it will continue to some degree until they finish secondary school.
This full immersion and immersion in the language ensures that the language skills of every primary pupil in Gaelic Medium Education are both suitable and complete – in terms of both Gaelic and English.
Gaelic outside of and after school
Gaelic Medium Education pupils should get the opportunity to use Gaelic outwith the classroom. Events such as ceilidhs, cafes and visits to people in the community are very effective for developing Gaelic skills and confidence in addition to connections between generations.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig works closely with groups to ensure Gaelic pupils have opportunities for using Gaelic outside of school. There is a wide range of opportunities in sport, music and other hobbies through the medium of Gaelic, adding to the experiences of the pupils in the language in different situations.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig also works in partnership with other groups to ensure that primary pupils know about the great value of Gaelic skills and bilingualism in general in the wide world of work. This is not just important for Gaelic related posts, but also for any job throughout the world. More information can be found at Skills Development Scotland.
Information and Support for Parents
There are a range of resources and groups to provide information to parents with children in Gaelic Medium Education or are thinking about sending their children to Gaelic Medium Education.
if you want to access Gaelic Medium Education for your child when it is not available in your area there is detailed information on the steps towards securing this through the Statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education. You should speak to your local authority in the first instance.
Fiosrachadh do Phàrantan gives information about the benefits of both Gaelic Medium Education and bilingualism.
Gaelic4Parents is full of resources, games, stories and recordings that will help young children who are using or learning Gaelic. Parents can also receive support with homework, and this is particularly good for parents who don’t have Gaelic skills.
Comann nam Pàrant has a network of parent groups throughout Scotland who give support and advice to any parents who are thinking about sending their children to Gaelic Medium Education. They also run a parent counselling scheme with staff in different areas who advise people about Gaelic Medium Education.
Gaelic Learner Education in Primary Schools
Gaelic Learner Education sits alongside the teaching of other modern languages in Scotland. Gaelic is learned in the same way as French and other languages are taught.
In the primary school, there is the opportunity to offer Gaelic (Learners) as an L2 (beginning in P1) or L3 (beginning at any point between P5 & P7). This is under the auspices of the Scottish Government’s 1+2 Language Policy, and pupils should have the opportunity to continue these languages in High School
Many local authorities in Scotland currently offer Gaelic Learner Education in the Primary School as an L2 or L3, meaning that children who do not have access to Gaelic Medium Education in their area can learn Gaelic. This may be the first step to fluency via other pathways.
There are support and learning opportunities for teachers through the Gaelic Language in Primary Schools initiative and resources and other materials are available for Gaelic teaching in the primary school at go-gaelic.scot.
Support and Guidance for Primary Management Teams
Management teams in every school which deals with Gaelic should be aware of the Statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education.
Planning for the growth of Gaelic Education, in particular Gaelic Medium Education should be integral to the standard development planning of schools. It is important that schools promote positive environments for Gaelic education in their schools through conversations with staff and learners.
Our partners provide support and guidance as well, in the Advice on Gaelic Education and the report on Inspection Findings from Education Scotland.
If you are in a promoted post with responsibility for Gaelic, you may contact us at Bòrd na Gàidhlig at any time.
Teach in Gaelic at Primary Level
Great teachers are at the heart of the revitalisation and development of Gaelic, and it is a priority for Bòrd na Gàidhlig and its partners to service this. You can find more information about teaching here.