Gaelic and Scots and Scottish Languages Bill: Scottish Government commitments

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Closes 8 Dec 2022

Gaelic medium education (GME)

This section will consider a new national strategic approach to Gaelic medium education which is essential if we are to see the faster rates of progress we seek for Gaelic.

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The Scottish Government has committed to make further progress with Gaelic medium education (GME) by means of a new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education.  This will involve ensuring that the GME experience is truly immersive,  aiming also to increase the range of subjects that can be taught in GME at both levels of broad general education and senior phase of secondary school.   It will involve encouraging the creation of new GME primary and secondary schools across Scotland,  backed by further investment to increase the number of teachers who can teach in the medium of Gaelic.

There are a number of local authorities and bodies that make a vital contribution to Gaelic medium education in Scotland.  Along with these, the Scottish Government will ensure that e-Sgoil and Stòrlann continue to be supported in order to help with school education, adult learning, teacher support, community learning and provide access to good quality Gaelic education resources.  We will also  ensure that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig continues to be a centre of excellence for the provision of Gaelic learning, with dedicated funding to offer Further Education and Higher Education courses through the medium of Gaelic.  We recognise that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has a key role in supporting GME at all levels and a wide range of Gaelic community initiatives. 

The Scottish Government recognises that these issues above,  are essential if we are to see the faster rates of progress we seek for Gaelic.  The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining support for Gaelic education, arts and broadcasting with MG ALBA having a key role.   We also recognise that there are interdependencies across these sectors which support one another and contribute to the overall aim of increasing the numbers speaking, using and learning the language. 

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Gaelic medium education is an established sector in Scottish education.  A link to Gaelic education data is available from Bòrd na Gàidhlig at the following link.  Education Data – Bòrd na Gàidhlig (gaidhlig.scot)   The aim of GME is for young people to be able to operate confidently and fluently in two languages as they progress from early years, through primary education and into secondary education.    GME from nursery to the end of primary school is a form of immersion education.  With this form of education, Gaelic is the sole language of learning, teaching and assessment in the first three years of primary school, referred to as the immersion phase. 

From P4 to P7, immersion education will continue but, at this stage, learning through the medium of the English language will be introduced.  From P4 onwards and following the introduction of English, Gaelic should remain the predominant language of the classroom.  GME is delivered to children and young people who come from families where Gaelic is spoken as well as those from families with little or no background in Gaelic. 

Gaelic medium primary education (GMPE) is currently available in 14 out of 32  education authority areas across Scotland.   There are also a growing number of Gaelic medium schools in Scotland and dual stream (Gaelic and English) primary schools where GME is in the majority.  There are also a number of Gaelic medium early years centres and cròileagain (playgroups) operating across Scotland. 

Gaelic medium secondary education (GMSE) is also available in a 33 secondary schools in Scotland.  In these schools, Gaelic is typically offered as a subject, with some schools delivering a further proportion of the curriculum through the medium of Gaelic.  Gaelic learner education (GLE)  is distinct from GME in that it is delivered to those who are in English medium education as an additional language.  GLE provides young people with an introduction to Gaelic language and culture.

Education agencies and public bodies in Scotland also have a vital role to play in supporting and developing Gaelic education in Scotland.  Teacher education institutions also make an essential contribution to the promotion, support and growth of Gaelic education in Scotland.   Along with these bodies, Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig supports pupils, teachers and parents through its role in providing resources for Gaelic education.

Building on the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, the Scottish Parliament has passed a number of pieces of legislation which are important for the delivery of education including the delivery of Gaelic education in Scotland’s schools.  These include, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010, the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 and related Guidance

Growth and Progress of Gaelic medium education

The Scottish Government would like to hear from Gaelic education interests what they consider to be  the barriers or obstacles that need to be addressed to allow GME to make further progress. We would also like to hear your views on possible solutions to these issues.

Over recent years there have been reports on GME and GME consultation responses which have had a common theme. This theme has been that there are certain barriers or obstacles that need to be addressed in order to enable GME to make good progress.  In order to stimulate further discussion and engagement with stakeholders some of these issues are set out below.  However the Scottish Government wants to hear your views on where attention is needed in order to enable and assist with further progress of GME in Scotland.  We want to elicit your ideas on options to bring about improvements and as such when responding to this consultation you may wish to provide your views in some of these area but you should not feel constrained or limited to these topics. We are open to and welcome additional views and ideas.

Areas of concern may include:

  • GME provision, access to provision and local authority promotion of GME,
  • GME as a 3-18 experience and GME continuity,
  • GME subject choice, curriculum and assessment arrangements,
  • GME teacher recruitment, placement, retention and professional learning,
  • Teacher and pupil support and resources, 
  • O-3, early years provision and linguistic acquisition,
  • Class sizes, language assistants, immersion and fluency,
  • Taking account of GME when setting national expectations and in activity around School Inspection,
  • Inclusion of GME in the planning for and reporting by schools where GME is provided as part of a dual stream school.

These areas above are listed as broad headings but  each could contain further detailed issues.  For example under the heading of access, we are aware many parents have had issues with gaining a GME place where there is limited or no provision. This may also be the case  where demand is outstripping places available.  Some parents can be disadvantaged or unable to take up a place where transport issues are dependent on catchment arrangements and by the locally established policies around transport.  Again, under the broad category of subject choice there may be concern about GME subject provision in the senior phase.  Each of the points listed above can be subdivided into other more detailed and specific examples.  

 

The aim of any new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education will be to support growth and development and ensure that GME delivers a good quality educational experience for all the young people in GME.  In order to achieve this every effort must be made to bring improvements where a particular issue is identified as a barrier to growth.  Therefore we ask you to consider what steps, in your view, need to be taken to make progress or provide solutions.  For example solutions may involve:

  • A review and changes to the duties on local authorities with regard to GME,
  • Clarification of  the nature of the 3-18 GME experience and of what parents can expect from it,
  • Further measures to support GME teacher recruitment and professional development,
  • Ensuring that GME early years provision is in place and supported,
  • Establishing how national bodies and agencies can better work together to support GME. 

Solutions identified as part of the new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education may be delivered through the current legislation, amendments to it and an update of the guidance on GME.  It is also necessary to ensure that account is taken of the  wider education reform agenda across Scottish education and the inclusion of GME at that heart of that reform.  Where you identify an issue you may wish to suggest what action you consider could enable progress to be made in GME. 

As mentioned, although a number of broad headings have been listed above, there is no presumption that consultation views should be limited to these points.  Views are welcome on other barriers and suggested solutions. 

1. Thinking of barriers, obstacles and solutions - What are the key aspects you feel should be included in a new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education?
2. What steps do you think should be taken to support and promote Gaelic education and to ensure that any new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education is implemented?
3. Are there any other points you would like to make about the provision of Gaelic medium education and Gaelic learner education in Scottish education?