Gaelic: Enhanced outdoor provision

Gaelic/English sign.
Gaelic/English sign.

Ambitious plans to significantly boost the delivery of adventurous activities for the Gaelic-speaking market have been announced by Gaelic development company, Comunn na Gàidhlig (CnaG).

‘Spòrs Gàidhlig’, as the new organisation will be called, will create opportunities for young people to use Gaelic in a fun and supportive setting through a range of activities, events and programmes. The new organisation represents a significant opportunity to schools, allowing them to access a wider and more comprehensive range of Gaelic medium programmes.

If successful, the proposals would see the creation of a team of trained staff able to deliver a range of activities to young people entirely through the medium of Gaelic. As part of the same programme, CnaG have also announced a ‘crowdfunding’ appeal to help them purchase a minibus to support their growing programme of youth activities.

According to CnaG, despite efforts in the past to address the issue, there are very, very few qualified outdoor instructors able to deliver activities directly in the Gaelic language. This means that when young people are participating in adventurous activities, they are almost always delivered in English. The danger is that young people can then associate ‘cool’ and exciting activities with English – a real detriment to their Gaelic learning and confidence.

The new proposals have been carefully developed over the last year. A feasibility study (See “notes to editors”) carried out by independent consultants came to the strong conclusion that such a provision was viable and was needed to support overall developments in Gaelic medium education. An eventual aim to have a Gaelic language “outdoor centre” was also seen as viable, but early emphasis had to be focussed on staff training and development.

Among the study’s other conclusions were:

The training of Gaelic-speaking instructors is a key element in the vision of providing outdoor learning opportunities in Gaelic;

A Gaelic language and outdoor learning centre could become an effective means of contributing to the outcomes as set out in the National Plan for Gaelic;

Community involvement and a sense of ownership by the wider Gaelic community will be very important in the success of a CnaG Gaelic language and outdoor learning centre.

Comunn na Gàidhlig themselves already deliver a wide range of activities for young Gaelic speakers. These include very popular summer ‘Sradagan’ camps for 8-12 year olds, and recently introduced initiatives such as ski-camps and the delivery of the John Muir Award in a number of areas. They say the growth in demand (see “notes to editors”) for these activities, and the growth in the number of pupils following GME, led them to the conclusion that a more focussed and specialised provision was needed.

CnaG chief executive Donald MacNeill said: “We are very grateful for the support of our funders, particularly Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in allowing us to do what we currently do. Our aspiration is very much that this new venture – the delivery of an even greater range of activities and outdoor learning under the “Spòrs Gàidhlig” banner – would be commercial and self-sustaining after the initial training and development phase.”

Project Manager Donald Morris said: “Because CnaG offers its activities to groups of youngsters coming from across Scotland, we often have to face transport challenges. Dealing with these takes a great deal of time and effort, which would be much better spent focussing on improving our activity programme. We believe a minibus would help us deliver our current programme more efficiently and cost-effectively.”