Gaelic schools may be tripled under plans to boost native tongue

THE number of dedicated Gaelic schools in Scotland could treble from two to six within two years under plans to increase the number of people speaking the language.

An action plan published yesterday also envisages a fourfold increase in the number of teachers training in Gaelic, and an additional 2,000 adults learning the language by April 2012.

Brd na Gidhlig (BnG), the national Gaelic development agency, wants to drive up the number of speakers from 58,000 at the last census in 2001 to 65,000 by 2021 and 100,000 by 2041.

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Its plan is in response to the Scottish Government's calls for radical steps to create a new generation of Gaelic speakers.

The proposals include a national campaign to encourage the use of Gaelic and efforts targeted in five areas over the next two years – support for parents, promotion, adult learning, and education in the 0-3 and 3-18 age groups.

There is no new Scottish Government money for the projects. Instead, BnG is recycling 600,000 from existing budgets to channel into new campaigns.

Among the plans are the recruitment of 50 home visitors to encourage parents to enrol children in Gaelic classes and starting a series of summer language schools for teenagers.

At present there are two dedicated Gaelic schools, in Inverness and Glasgow, while Highland Council has plans for new buildings in Fort William and Portree. Others have been suggested for Edinburgh and the Western Isles.

BnG also wants local authorities to increase pupil numbers in pre-school and P1 Gaelic medium education units by 15 per cent per year and expand teaching in secondaries. At present there is an 80 per cent drop-off in numbers of GME pupils between primary and secondary, largely due to limited secondary provision.

BnG wants incentives offered to encourage more teachers to convert to Gaelic. Currently ten primary and five secondary students a year train as Gaelic teachers; BnG wants this to be quadrupled by 2012, plus another six non-Gaelic speaking teachers a year becoming fluent in the language.

Arthur Cormack, the BnG chairman, said: "Whether it is a matter of national pride, a sense of history, or to secure employment, our aim is to make the learning of Gaelic attractive and accessible."