Gaelic teachers to gather in Highlands

A major conference for teachers working in Gaelic Medium Education kicks off in Aviemore this week.

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

More than 160 delegates are expected to attend An t-Alltan, the annual event led by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig.

The conference will be opened on Wednesday by Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages.

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Keynote speakers will be Lord Minginish, Roddy John Macleod, chair of the board of directors at Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and chair of the Scottish Land Court, and BBC Alba weather girl and broadcaster Kirsty MacDonald.

The conference is viewed as an excellent professional learning opportunity for Gaelic educationalists with a primary focus on new Stòrlann resources and other educational developments.

With all teachers having to do a certain amount of Career-Long Professional Learning (CLPL) in a year, An t-Alltan gives them the chance to improve their skills in a number of areas, get to grips with new tools for the classroom, and keep ensuring best practice.

It also offers Gaelic teachers, who may work in relative isolation in small, remote schools — the chance to network and meet with others in similar situations.

As well as the speeches, there are around 19 workshops on a variety of topics aimed at teachers from the pre-school, primary and secondary sectors right across Scotland.

Among those leading workshops and meeting directly with the teachers will be representatives from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland.

The workshop from SQA Gàidhlig, where the principal assessor and qualifications officer will be passing on key messages and learning points from 2014/2015 in relation to standards, is expected to be of particular interest.

Others include a lesson on how to use ‘Comic Life’, Stòrlann’s computer programme that allows pupils to produce a wide range of comic book-style texts which can then be slotted into pages in the online Gaelic comic ‘Smathsin’.

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Stòrlann chief executive Donald Morrison said: “From the staff point of view, it allows our staff to meet the teachers that they deal with throughout the year. It’s a good way of strengthening relationships between the company and the client.”

Speaking ahead of the conference, Alasdair Allan said one of the big challenges facing Gaelic Medium Education was “continuing to meet the demand in terms of providing enough teachers”.

He pointed to the Education Bill currently going through Parliament as something which would “further strengthen the role of GME” and said he would “like to see schools having a central role in promoting Gaelic within the community”.

He added: “I think that teachers in schools are very aware now that they need to interact with native Gaelic speakers within the community and that young people and older people have got a lot to learn from each other.”

Of An t-Alltan, he said: “It’s important for Gaelic medium teachers to meet each other. We should remember, in many, many places the Gaelic medium teacher might be the only Gaelic Medium teacher in the school or the only Gaelic medium teacher in the area. So it’s important that people have a chance to share best practice and to encourage each other.

“Certainly as Minister, it’s a chance for me to hear about the priorities people in Gaelic Medium Education have for the future.”