Gaelic Medium Education
The role of parents has been essential in the establishment and growth of Gaelic medium education. Since the commencement of Gaelic medium education in 1985-86 it has been parents that have requested Gaelic medium education ( GME) and have requested various improvements in the provision of GME. Good progress has been seen in the provision of Gaelic resources for practitioners, teachers and pupils in GME, in the education and support for GME teachers and in the provision of guidance on what parents can expect if their children attend GME. In all of these areas, parents with children in GME have played an important part. Parents have also been prominent in requesting the establishment of stand-alone Gaelic medium early learning and childcare settings and schools.
There is a national association, Comann nam Pàrant ( CnP), for parents with children in GME. CnP operates both on a local level and on a national level. It has local committees which are usually formed around current GME provision and a national function which includes a national officer and a national committee and chair. The local committees have a focus on the provision and growth of GME at a local level. The national function also has an interest in local matters but with the added aim of representing these concerns at a national level. CnP also holds an annual conference for all CnP members. Bòrd na Gàidhlig provides funding for CnP and also has a role in supporting parents with children in GME.
With the growth of stand-alone GME schools, there are now also Gaelic Parent Councils. There are now six GME stand-along schools and six corresponding Parent Councils. These Parent Councils – and equivalent parent committees or groups in an early learning context - also have an important role both locally and nationally for GME. It is equally important that those parents with children in GME are also represented on Parent Councils of schools with Gaelic units and this should be encouraged at every level.
The body, Storlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig is funded by both the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Its principal function is to provide resources and support for pupils and teachers at all levels in Gaelic education. Storlann also has an important role in supporting parents with children in GME. This is by means of its website and telephone support line Gaelic 4 Parents. More recently Bookbug has been a valuable initiative for introducing parents and children to Gaelic learning.
The Education (Scotland) Act 2016 included important provisions for parents who wish Gaelic medium education for their children. This includes a right for parents to request GME for their children and a duty on local authorities to assess that request.
In order to ensure that GME continues to be promoted and supported it will be important for parents views on GME to be considered in the education policy process both at a local and national level. It will be important to reflect the specific needs and circumstances of parents of GME pupils as part of the Scottish Government’s education reforms, including the proposals to enhance and strengthen parental involvement and engagement. It will be important that effective structures remain in place for GME parents to have access to information and to contribute their views. It will be important that GME parents continue to be supported in the decision to select GME for their children.