Doubling the number of children going into Primary One Gaelic education is proving to be a “challenge”, the language’s national body has admitted.
Bòrd na Gaidlig has set a five-year target to boost the number of pupils from 400 to 800 by 2017, but achieved only 6 per cent in the last year.
The Bòrd’s annual report recorded that 428 children had entered Gaelic-medium education at that level in 2012-13.
Chief executive officer John Angus MacKay said: “There is no denying we are aiming high in seeking to double the number of children entering Gaelic-medium education by 2017, but we welcome the challenge as it is the most certain way towards stabilising and growing the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Over the last two years the Bòrd has implemented strategic campaigns promoting Gaelic-medium education.
“We are now beginning to see results in growth in the numbers of children in pre-school and primary Gaelic-medium education.”
The annual report highlights that the future was looking promising, with a 16 per cent rise in pre-school entrants aged three-five. There are also currently 80 nought-three groups meeting each week.
Part of the plan to attract more pupils is to recruit more teachers, and the report stated: “Our Gaelic teacher recruitment officer continued visiting schools, universities and careers events across the country to promote Gaelic teaching as a career.
“2012 saw 25 new teachers registering for Gaelic teaching.”
Bòrd na Gàidhlig called the 2012-13 financial year a “landmark year” in its report to the Scottish Parliament. It saw the Bòrd publish Scotland’s second National Gaelic Language Plan.
Some 17 organisations have adopted the plan in the last year, bringing the total to 40.
Mr MacKay said: “Our success in meeting challenges and grasping opportunities this year was based on a combination of dedication by our Bòrd and staff, and the co-operation and diligence of the hundreds of organisations and individuals with which we work – ranging from parliament and government and public authorities, third sector and commercial organisations to local communities.”
The Bord receives £5.154 million in funding from the Scottish Government. The Bòrd dealt with 362 applications for funding from different organisations throughout Scotland, although not all were successful due to funding constraints and weaknesses in alignment to the National Gaelic Language Plan. A total of 258 applications were approved.
Minister for Scotland’s languages Alasdair Allan hailed the Bòrd. “Recent work has clearly demonstrated the level of interest and the growing demand for Gaelic and shows its role as a vital part of people’s everyday lives as well as a linchpin in our culture and identity,” he said.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig chairman Iain Campbell said: “The launch of the National Gaelic Language Plan 2012-17 was the single most significant event of the year.”