Associate feature: How Comann nam Pàrant is supporting Gaelic medium education
Gaelic medium education (GME) is a fantastic opportunity for young people in Scotland to achieve bilingualism through one of our national languages.
Comann nam Pàrant is the voluntary body for parents of children in GME.
We have groups at national and local level who support parents and represent the interests of GME from pre-school through to secondary level.
The use of Gaelic outside the school environment is essential if children are to fully develop their language skills to fluency, which can be particularly challenging for parents who are not themselves Gaelic speakers, but who have nonetheless chosen GME for the myriad benefits that bilingual education provides.
We provide advice, information and resources for families to support the use of Gaelic both at home and in the community.
The activities of groups at local level are varied but all have the objective of improvement and progress for GME.
A recent example is research commissioned by our group in Edinburgh, ‘Best Practice in Language Immersion and the Issue of Co-Located Schools’ (O’Rourke, McLeod and Simpson), completed in March 2020.
The purpose of the research was to inform parents in relation to decisions concerning the future development of secondary GME in Edinburgh.
The research underlined that in terms of language acquisition and fluency the creation of an immersive environment inside and outside the classroom is crucial.
This research is also relevant at national level with many parents concerned about lack of progression in GME at secondary, as well as the impact of subject choice in the senior phase.
There have been challenges with teacher recruitment and retention in the Gaelic medium sector and we work to support local authorities who may struggle to attract teachers.
There are several initiatives addressing this issue and we are seeing an increasing number of Gaelic speaking teachers qualifying which is encouraging.
We achieve all of this work through volunteer activity and two members of staff with the organisation as a whole funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
Also in partnership with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, we support voluntary Gaelic early years groups across Scotland who provide an important initial step for many families into GME, using the CYPFEIF & ALEC fund.
This funding support has included training opportunities for staff and production of a Gaelic Early Years Toolkit to support the work of voluntary committees.
The current situation with COVID-19 has meant that many parents of children who would normally be immersed in Gaelic are having to support their child’s education in Gaelic at home although they themselves may not speak the language.
Many parents have expressed concern that this period of absence from immersion may have a detrimental effect on their child’s Gaelic language acquisition, which would in turn also affect their levels of educational attainment.
When pupils return to schools, we will monitor how local authorities act to address any issues for GME pupils which may arise from this prolonged lack of immersion in Gaelic.
It is encouraging to hear that the Welsh Government are considering prioritising Welsh medium pupils in the return to schools as the lockdown eases and we would support similar measures being taken by the Scottish Government.
A well-supported GME sector which will flourish and continue to expand is essential for the future for the Gaelic language in Scotland and we will continue to work in support of families who have made this commitment.
Magaidh Wentworth is the oifigear phàrant (parental officer) at Comann nam Pàrant
This article was sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Comann nam Pàrant