Gaelic-taught children in class of their own

Pupils taught in Gaelic perform better than their English-taught peers when reading and writing in English, a study has found.

Academics at Edinburgh University also found Gaelic-taught pupils performed just as well in science and maths, demonstrating they were not disadvantaged by learning in another language.

Supporters of the language said the report underlined the value of schooling in Gaelic and described it as "imperative" that it continues.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The study found that by primary five, children taught in Gaelic were on an equal footing with their peers in key subjects - a finding consistent with previous research on the topic.

The study also investigated why parents choose a Gaelic- speaking school and found many were encouraged by the educational gain and valued the language as part of their cultural identity.

Alasdair Cameron, convener of the Gaelic parents' association Comann nam Prant, said: "These findings underline the value of Gaelic Medium Education and reinforce the importance of continuing and expanding Gaelic education in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

"It is imperative that this important educational opportunity continues to be available to all pupils' families."

The report will be launched today at a conference on the topic in Edinburgh.

Education secretary Michael Russell, a prominent supporter of the language, said the Scottish Government was committed to supporting Gaelic education.

He said: "Gaelic Medium Education is a key part of our drive to create a new generation of Gaelic speakers and ensure the language thrives.

"It is also an important and increasingly popular choice for many parents across Scotland."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The conference will explore how teaching children in Gaelic could play a key role in reversing the decline of the language.

A key topic will also be how to overcome challenges of demand and funding.

Keynote presentations will be made by Arthur Cormack, chair of Brd na Gidhlig; Professor Boyd Robertson, principal, Sabhal Mr Ostaig; and Dr Rob Dunbar, research professor, Soillse, Sabhal Mr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Edinburgh has the largest Gaelic education unit in the country with only Glasgow's dedicated school, Sgoil Ghidhlig Glaschu having more pupils.

This year saw the largest ever primary one intake in the history of the Edinburgh unit, at 35 children.

However, Brian Wilson, the first minister for Gaelic, 1997-98, said expansion of Gaelic-taught education in Scotland over the past 25 years had been slow.

Writing in The Scotsman today, he says: "The expansion of Gaelic Medium Education has reached a plateau.There are around 2,200 children in 60 primary schools or units; barely a third of that number continuing into secondary.

"Precedent suggests that the number of Gaelic-medium places has to treble in order to give the language a fighting chance.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"And the extremely patchy provision in secondary schools must be brought up to a serious level to stop so many falling off the plateau."