Gaelic Medium Education - the benefits

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Children are born with the ability to become bilingual and multilingual. There is more than enough room in the brain for two or more languages.

The best time for children to develop their language skills is during their early years and Gaelic Medium Education (GME) offers an important opportunity for children to become fluent in both Gaelic and English and to flourish in our local culture whilst enjoying the everyday activities offered in nurseries and schools.

Gaelic Medium primary education is currently available in 20 out of 24 primary schools throughout the Westen Isles.

The majority of children who enrol in GME at school do not have Gaelic as their first language.

Teachers utilise all learning and teaching opportunities to immerse their classes in the Gaelic language during their first two years – through songs, stories, games and play. English reading and writing are introduced from primary 3, with Gaelic remaining as the principal language of the classroom.

Children transfer skills acquired in one language to the other so tend to progress quickly once they start reading in English.

For those children who are already fluent speakers of Gaelic, GME will reinforce their language and enable them to expand and develop their skills in both English and Gaelic.

The main aim of Gaelic Medium Education is to take children to the same level of fluency in both Gaelic and English by the time they leave primary school.

There are many advantages to becoming bilingual through GME:

Research shows that children who understand more than one language are able to think more flexibly, because they have two or more words for each object and idea they have enhanced creativity.

A bilingual person can communicate with a wider variety of people than a person who can only speak one language.

Research shows that children in GME catch up with and overtake English-medium pupils in their command of English.

It provides the opportunity to experience two different cultures throughout life.

There are economic benefits later on when looking for work as more employers ask for Gaelic/bilingual skills today than ever before.

It can help to bridge gaps between generations within families and communities.

It becomes much easier to learn a third language.

How can I support my child’s 
education when I do not 
speak Gaelic?

Parents can support their child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible, including television, radio, out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many local opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic.

How can I help with my child’s homework when I do not 
speak Gaelic?

Parents usually find that once their child is in school that they need not have worried about homework. There is always support available from teachers and in some schools from Gaelic speaking parents.

Homework clubs and parent support classes are also available in some schools. www.gaelic4parents.com provides a wide range of literacy resources for children aged 0 to 12 years – including online audio versions of the books your child will be learning to read – and live online help is available on Monday to Thursday evenings to assist parents with their child’s homework.

Does my child need to attend a Gaelic nursery before going into Gaelic Medium?

This is not necessary but is advisable whenever possible.

Parents will have the opportunity to discuss their enrolment choices with nursery staff and teachers through their local parents evening and school open days, and all parents are encouraged to visit the classrooms and speak to other parents and children who are currently learning through Gaelic Medium.

Further information is given in the ‘Fios is Freagairt’ pack which is available from all nurseries.

School enrolment for the 2015-16 session will be taking place during the week commencing 2nd February (full details will be advertised in the local press).

If you would like to discuss enrolment further, or would like more information regarding bilingualism or GME please do not hesitate to get in touch with:

Iona Mactaggart, GME Information Officer, Comunn na Gaidhlig (telephone 01851 701802 or email iona@cnag.org.uk)

Becky Maclean, Early Years Manager, CnES (telephone 01851 822655 or email becky.maclean@cne-siar.gov.uk)