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Gaelic medium education celebrates 25 years with new research


The findings from a new report on attainment in Gaelic medium education (GME), and on reasons why parents choose it, will be presented at a major conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday (17th), celebrating 25 years of GME and looking ahead to further developments.

A summary of the report is available here and the report itself, both in PDF format.

The conference is being organised by Holyrood Magazine and the keynote speakers include Michael Russell MSP, Minister for Education and Lifelong learning in the Scottish Cabinet.

Michael Russell said:

“The Gaelic language is an important part of Scotland's culture and heritage. That's why this Government is absolutely committed to growing the language and doing everything we can to create a new generation of Gaelic speakers.

“Gaelic medium education has a crucial part to play in the development of the language and I am pleased this research has found that pupils in Gaelic medium education do as well or better than their peers.

“I've visited Gaelic Medium schools and units across Scotland and have seen for myself the positive learning environment. Curriculum for Excellence will benefit Gaelic schools, as with all our schools, by bringing learning to life and increasing hands on learning.

“I am heartened by the growth in Gaelic Education in recent years and hope that this trend continues - and certainly this report should give parents reassurance that choosing this path for their children will only benefit their educational journey.”

The conference will debate several issues relating to GME including the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s strategy for development; the outcomes of new research on why people choose or do not choose GME and on pupil attainment in GME; updates on funding arrangements, methods and provision and discussion on steps which have to be taken to reverse the decline in the number of Gaelic speakers.

The conference will also mark the publication of the research conducted by Fiona O’ Hanlon, Wilson McLeod and Lindsay Paterson of the University of Edinburgh into why people choose or do not choose Gaelic-medium education for their children, and what its effects are on pupils’ attainment.

To investigate choice, eight primary-secondary school pairs were selected, covering the range of contexts across Scotland in which Gaelic-medium education is provided. Interviews were conducted with the schools’ headteachers and Local Authority Gaelic advisers (22 in total), with 55 parents of pupils in Primary 7 or Secondary 2 Gaelic medium and with 30 parents of pupils in Primary 7 or Secondary 2 English medium.

Pupil attainment was studied mainly using two surveys conducted by Scottish Government statisticians in 2007: the Scottish Survey of Achievement, and the Survey of Gaelic Education, covering some 300 pupils in Gaelic-medium education and over 15,000 pupils in English-medium education. These enabled comparison of the attainment of Gaelic-medium pupils with three groups of English-medium pupils: nationally; in the same schools as Gaelic-medium pupils; and in a group matched to be similar to the Gaelic-medium pupils with regard to gender, socio-economic status and local authority area.

The findings show that pupils undertaking GME perform better than their English-medium peers in English reading and at least as well in science, mathematics and English writing. Thus they acquire or develop an additional language without diminishing their attainment in other areas of the curriculum.

The research also provides an insight into the motivation of parents in choosing GME for their children. Parents believed that learning bilingually provides cognitive stimulation, and additional skills in learning further languages. Some parents also value the Gaelic language as part of their family, community or national heritage.

Arthur Cormack, Cathraiche (Chair) of Bòrd na Gàidhlig said:

“We welcome this report which adds to a growing body of research confirming that Gaelic education is a success for the pupils involved, and for the Gaelic language. This report shows that attainment among Gaelic pupils is at least as good as that of their peers educated in English. Pupils in Gaelic medium education gain an advantage by being educated in two languages, their attainment is excellent, and they gain access to important aspects of Scottish culture.”

“More generally, in my opinion, Gaelic medium education offers an unrivalled model in delivering the new Curriculum for Excellence, incorporating teaching across subjects within the school context, and with many aspects reinforced by the experiences offered to Gaelic medium pupils outwith the classroom environment. These involve Gaelic-speaking people from the community helping in schools, and Gaelic-speaking business people assisting with enterprise projects. Pupils also take part in Gaelic cultural activities on a regular basis, as well as in sporting activities conducted in Gaelic.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig has ambitious growth targets of 15% year-on-year in pupil numbers entering Gaelic medium education. This will require a strong, properly supported early years sector. It will require strong partnerships with local authorities to deliver school education. It also needs parents to be persuaded that a Gaelic education is good for their children, and that support is available for them. There is a growing number of mechanisms in place which should allay any fears parents have of not being able to support their children in Gaelic education and we hope that earlier research, and this latest report, will help in persuading more and more parents to choose a Gaelic education for their child.”

Other keynote speakers at the Conference include Professor Antonella Sorace from Edinburgh University who will speak about the advantages of bilingualism; Joan MacKinnon Director of Education in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; and Donalda McComb Head Teacher of Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu, the Glasgow Gaelic School.

There will be sessions in the afternoon debating key issues in areas such as pre-school provision, primary and secondary education and the tertiary sector, research and teacher recruitment. There will also be a session devoted to debating the findings of the newly published report summarised above.

A spokesperson from Holyrood Magazine said:

“Set against a backdrop of looming budget cuts, declining demand in some local authorities and over subscription in others, and debate over class sizes in Gaelic schools, determining the best way forward for GME is a complex task that requires open discussion with input from everyone involved – policy makers, teachers and headteachers, local authorities, organisations with a remit to support or promote Gaelic and parents interested in GME.”

The Conference, which will be led by John Morrison of McGarvie Morrison Media, begins at 0845 with Registration.

Annual General Meeting of Comann nam Pàrant (Nàiseanta) 2007


The Annual General Meeting of Comann nam Pàrant (Nàiseanta) was held in Inverness this year on Friday 11th May with parents attending representing different areas from Uist to Edinburgh.

In this year’s Annual Report the chairperson, Iona McHale recounts the progress that has been achieved in Gaelic medium education over the year but also acknowledges that there have been disappointments and lack of progress in some areas. Iona, who is standing down as chair after three years in the position, said

“I would like to thank all the parents in the many areas that have campaigned this year for Gaelic medium education, we realise how difficult this work can be at times but it is only because of parents who are willing to continue this struggle that progress will be made.”

Following the formal proceedings Rosemary Ward and Angela MacGillivray from Bòrd na Gàidhlig gave a talk on the ‘National Strategy for Gaelic Education’. After their talk there was an opportunity to put questions to a panel where Rosemary and Angela were joined by DJ MacLeod, Highland Council and Janet MacLeod, Headteacher of the Inverness Gaelic School. Parents took full advantage of this opportunity to put questions to such a panel of experts on education and there was a very interesting discussion on a variety of topics connected with Gaelic medium education.

The next day CNP(N) held a committee meeting where Curstaidh MacDonald from Uist was nominated as chairperson and Dawn Morgan as vice-chair. Taking up her new position Curstaidh said

“CnP(N) are pleased with the strong support that they are getting from the Education Manager at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Rosemary Ward, and we are looking forward to working with her and the Board in developing Gaelic medium education at every level throughout Scotland. This year, we will work particularly towards establishing more Gaelic schools, increasing the number of subjects available at secondary level and improving marketing of Gaelic medium education.”

Magaidh Wentworth

Comann nam Pàrant Nàiseanta

Phone: 07708398649

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Parents from Argyll meet to take forward Gaelic medium education


Parents from the six places in Argyll where children are educated through Gaelic have been invited to attend an all-Argyll convention on Saturday 29 September. The Council recently published its plan for Gaelic and this will be a chance for parents to consider it, and then make their views known. Comann nam Pàrant – the Gaelic parents’ association – is hosting this event in Glasgow. It will be held in Glasgow’s new Gaelic School, and will give parents in Argyll the chance to see how it is helping the growth of Gaelic in the city.

The National Plan for Gaelic, produced by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, targets major growth in Gaelic-medium education numbers, and parents in Argyll will have the chance to say how they want to be part of this expansion. While teacher supply remains a challenge, there has been growth in Argyll in recent years. Last year there were 221 children between Gaelic medium nursery units, primaries and secondaries, and only ten years ago the combined roll was approximately 80.

Ewen MacPherson, Chair of Oban’s Comann nam Pàrant group said,

“From October 2007, Sgoil Araich an Obain - Oban’s Gaelic medium pre-school - will run in the mornings in excellent facilities within Oban Primary Campus, allowing easy integration in due course for the children to the Gaelic Medium department within Rockfield Primary School.“

“While this provision is positive for Gaelic in Oban, we welcome the opportunity to meet with, and learn from, other Argyll parents from places like Islay and Tiree, and to make our contribution to the development of the Council’s Gaelic Language Plan.”

Comann nam Pàrant is paying for two parents from each area to travel to Glasgow, however, the invitation is open to all parents to attend, if they want to make the trip to Glasgow under their own steam. Any GME parents interested in attending should contact Magaidh Wentworth, National Parental Officer, on 07708398649.

Gaelic education continues to flourish in Glasgow


This time last year Glasgow’s new Gaelic School threw open its doors, marking an exciting new era in Gaelic-medium education in Scotland. Twelve months on, and the success story continues apace in the city. Parents from in and around Glasgow have enrolled their children in record numbers at Glasgow’s Gaelic schools: Three nurseries*; the Primary and Secondary Departments in the Gaelic School at Woodside; and the Gaelic Unit at Hillpark Secondary.

The parents’ group that promotes Gaelic-medium education (GME) is delighted with the increases: 75 more children in GME this year, compared with last. “More and more parents are waking up to the benefits of this type of education. Children thrive in the environment, where Gaelic is all around them, and with its high standards of teaching,” said Mary Galbraith, the convener of Comann nam Pàrant in Glasgow.

Overall the roll in Gaelic-medium education is up an astounding 19% in Glasgow. Numbers in GME are on the increase in Scotland as a whole, with Glasgow making a major contribution to this highly positive state of affairs. This contrasts sharply with a decline in general education enrolments across Scotland, where school rolls are down each year, by as much as 5% in some Council areas.

The key details in Glasgow are:

  • The primary roll – where the bulk of Gaelic-medium education takes place – is up 14%, with a total roll of 253 in the Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (Glasgow Gaelic School) primary department. This year's P1 intake is 50, compared with 48 last year - one of the highest in the city.
  • Nursery numbers – the foundation on which future intakes are built - up 22% overall, and increasing in each of the city’s three Gaelic nurseries.
  • Secondary roll – until 2011 split between both the new school and Hillpark Secondary on the south side – an increase of 32%. Two factors help to explain this significant increase:
  • 100% of the last session’s primary 7 pupils transfer into S1 in the new school. In the past, some children would not continue in GME when they moved to high school; however the new all-Gaelic Secondary is helping to retain children in GME for their secondary education.
  • 25% of the new S1 intake is coming from other local authorities. There are children enrolling at the new secondary school who come from East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Greenock and Kilmarnock, and this trend – which started last year – looks set to last.

“The new 3 to 18 school certainly gives lots of parents confidence in Gaelic education”, added Seán Gallagher, Chair of the School Board, “and it is a great demonstration of Glasgow City Council’s commitment to Gaelic, and to our children’s education”.

Parents to have their say on the future of Gaelic medium education


Parents of children in Gaelic medium education in the Western Isles are being invited to put forward their own proposals for local schooling. Comann nam Pàrant is holding a series of meetings across the islands to gather parents’ views on how Gaelic medium education should be strengthened for the future.

Since Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) announced a review of all schools, many families have voiced concerns about the possible impact on Gaelic medium education. Comann nam Pàrant and Bòrd na Gàidhlig expect to be formally invited to respond to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's public consultation on the schools review process.

Comann nam Pàrant wants to secure the best possible outcome for children educated through Gaelic. These meetings will offer all current and prospective parents a chance to put forward their ideas and proposals. As the Comhairle undertakes its own review, parents will be prepared and can contribute to the consultation on the basis of a locally developed and agreed way forward for Gaelic medium education.

The meeting details are:


Date – all from 7.30 to 9 pm



Thursday 22 November 2007

Barra Learning Centre


Wednesday 28 November 2007

Ness Learning Centre


Thursday 29 November 2007

Shawbost Old School


Monday 3 December 2007

Tarbert Community Centre


Tuesday 4 December 2007

Tiumpanhead Community Centre


Wednesday 12 December 2007

Coll Centre


Thursday 13 December 2007

Breasclete Community Centre


Wednesday 9 January 2008

Balallan Hall


Thursday 10 January 2008

Stornoway Town Hall

South Uist

Monday 14 January 2008

Kildonan Museum

North Uist

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Carinish Hall


Wednesday 16 January 2008

Benbecula Learning Centre


“The changes that may be introduced by the Comhairle are likely to be the biggest for a generation, and the implications for Gaelic medium education could be highly significant” said Magaidh Wentworth, the national Parental Officer. “This is an ideal opportunity to enhance how Gaelic medium education is delivered and secure its future; a chance that may not present itself again for many years”.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is supporting this exercise.

“The Comhairle has recently restated its belief that parental demand is central to how it develops services. So we are keen to support this process that will assist parents to consider their options and help them to present their collective views to the Comhairle”,

said Rosemary Ward, Education Manager for the Bòrd.

For further details please contact Magaidh Wentworth on 01463 234 138 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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