Some of us are concerned with the immediate need to gather and voice
our support for the continuance of funding for (Scottish) Gaelic medium
secondary education, which the Scottish Office is planning on curtailing.
We are recommending concerned people to write to the Scottish Office
directly, as well as contribute their signature to our petition. There
is not much time for feedback (until April 30th), and the response needs
to be loud and clear for the message to be heard and listened to.
The wording on our petition may be a good model for a postcard or letter
to the Scottish Office:
In response to the recent report, "Provision for Gaelic Education in
Scotland," we the undersigned believe that the continuation of the
development of Ga\idhlig medium education at secondary level is both
desirable and feasible. As parents and supporters of present Gaelic
medium units we urge the Secretary of State to build on the successes of
recent years and continue the momentum we have been struggling for thus far.
Below are recent articles on the report and responses to it.
From "The West Highland Free Press" Friday 4 March 1994:
'Foghlam tron Gha\idhlig: Na tha romhainn"
The challenge presented by the report "Provision for Gaelic Education
in Scotland" is clear. Gaelic speakers, parents of children in Gaelic-
medium primary units, and all interested in the future of the language
have precisely eight weeks (till 30th April) to demonstrate to Scottish
Secretary Ian Lang that secondary education through the medium of Gaelic
is desirable, feasible and worth investing in.
...The compilers of the report, HM Inspectors of Schools, might therefore
have been expected to endorse the aims of Gaelic-medium secondary
education; to describe it as our current great challenge; and to set out a
staged programme of targets for going forward to achieve its aims. Instead,
they simply recommend reneging on the existing practical and moral
commitment, and ditching the whole idea in favour of a modest expansion
of Gaelic itself as a secondary subject.
Why have they done this? Firstly, it has to be said that they seem to
be a little naive. There is no evidence that they are conscious of what
is normal treatment for an indigenous minority language in an advanced
Western European nation...
No, the only serious issues are [hu]man-power and textbooks, and these -
along with assessment, curricular issues, prioritising subjects and
identifying growth points -- are whatt the Inspectors should have
addressed. Gaelic-medium primary education will begin producing job-
seekers in a few years time, and the challenge is to ensure that the
process becomes circular.
From "The Scotsman" Wednesday 9 March:
'No class room for widening Celtic tongue', by Ronnie Black
Gaelic will not be used to teach any other subjects in Scottish
secondary schools and will therefore be confined to the language class,
concludes a report.
This is the most important, and most depressing, conclusion reached by
a substantial new report, 'Provision for Gaelic Education in Scotland,'
which was published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools...
The report will have considerable influence on Scottish Office thinking,
concluding, as it does: "The provision of Gaelic-medium secondary education
in a number of subjects, determined by the vagaries of resource
availability, is neither desirable nor feasible in the foreseeable
It says: "Evidence gathered for this report indicates that, in view
of the difficulties associated with ensuring quality of staffing,
resources, learning, teaching and assessment, the provision of Gaelic-
medium education across the curriculum in secondary schools is not a
viable option in the future."
This sits uncomfortably beside the report's findings on what has been
Gaelic educationalists see Gaelic-medium secondary education as a
challenge. As this report says, there are difficulties, notably a
shortage of teachers and textbooks. The report also says the hard work
has already begun...
Why, then, are the inspectors refusing to take this road? The
shortage of teachers is only an excuse. The answer is money...
In order to keep the grants coming, the Scottish Office needs a
sacrifice. And it is to be Gaelic-medium education...
It seems that, if we want secondary education in other subjects
through the medium of Gaelic, we will have to fight for it...
From "The West Highland Free Press" Friday 11 March:
"The Irish Experience: A lesson for Gaelic-medium education", by
Ma/ire Ni/ Charra
Is Gaelic-medium secondary education desirable and feasible? It
certainly was for me.
When I was four I went to Scoil Fhursa, an all Irish-language school.
From its foundation in 1933 its roll and its reputation increased, so that
children had to be put on a waiting-list before they were born. The reason
for the excellence of the school was the commitment of the parents. A
majority were committed to having their children taught through Irish;
others just wanted their children to have the best all-round education
available in Galway...
Another thing I remember about being educated through Irish is the
large number of people who gave of their time and energy in the cultural
area. I took part in round after round of plays, debates, poetry
recitation, choirs, and so on... With having so much practice in Irish,
girls from the Irish stream were the most prominent in English language
debates as well, even at university.
The recent HMI report says pupils must "master a second language in
order to assimilate the range of new and complex ideas presented in
subjects across the curriculum". What does this mean? Children in
Gaelic-medium secondary classes have already mastered both Gaelic and
English. Though not a native speaker, I was competent in Irish by the
age of seven.
It also worries about social isolation. Gaelic classes would be very
small, it says. If classes are small, the results will be outstanding
and parents will be clamouring to get their children into them. Ergo,
the classes won't be small anymore...
I think it worked, on the whole!