Gaelic Education



What is Gaelic Medium Education?

Gaelic Medium Education is open to everyone, those who speak Gaelic and those who do not. It is one of the main ways of achieving or maintaining fluency in Gaelic. This is especially true of children from a non-Gaelic speaking background. Pupils who are not Gaelic speakers to start with, indeed who come from non-Gaelic speaking homes and communities, can be brought to fluency in the language through what is referred to as immersion. Immersion means that pupils are taught only in Gaelic, while they are doing the usual things that children do in the early years of their education- in playgroup, nursery and primary school. Their teachers utilise all the available opportunities to develop pupils’ Gaelic skills-through songs, stories and games following Curriculum for Excellence guidelines.

Gaelic medium education reinforces the language of fluent speakers and also enables them to become fully literate in the language.

Pre-school Gaelic medium provision is an important first step in the formal education process.

In the school we have a Pàrant agus Paiste, parent and toddler groups, which is led by one of our parents.   


Gaelic medium education in the primary school involves the use of the Gaelic language for all learning and teaching, across all subjects in the curriculum, using immersion methods in P1 and P2. English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3 but the principal language of the classroom is Gaelic throughout primary. The aim of Gaelic medium education, through the government’s national guidelines, is to take children to the same level of fluency in Gaelic and English by the time they leave primary school.


In the following video we meet Jenny Louise MacLeod from Stornoway who’s little boy James has just started in pre-school.  
This video, which is in Gaelic, is about the impact Gaelic has had on Coinneach and he shares information on the may opportunities which have been opened to him by being a fluent speaker. 

GME promotion video 2


What are the advantages of being bilingual?


·         Research shows that children who understand more than one language are able to think more flexibly, not only about words, but about anything and because they have two or more words for each object and idea they have enhanced creativity.

·         Some research has even indicated that being bilingual may help to keep the brain sharper for longer.

·         There are definite economic advantages later on when your child is looking for a job, as more employers today ask for bilingual skills than ever before.

·         It can help to build a bridge between generations, if grandparents, family or community members speak Gàidhlig.

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

·         It provides the opportunity to experience two different cultures.

·         In Gaelic-speaking areas, it gives people the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of community life.



Frequently asked questions-

Is Gaelic medium possible if we cant speak Gaelic ourselves?

Yes. Most children in Gaelic medium education come from non-Gaelic speaking homes. There is help available and opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic


Does my child have to go to a pre-school Gaelic group before going into Gaelic medium?

This is not absolutely necessary but it is advisable whenever possible and most Gaelic medium provision does now have attached nursery provision


Does Gaelic medium education hinder children’s development?

No. Studies have shown that children in bilingual education do as well as their peers in all subjects including English. Research Evidence


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

Support your child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible-television, radio,out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many opportunities for parents to learn Gaelic, very often in special classes for parents. 

Gaelic Bookbug 


How do we use the Gaelic language at home if only one partner can speak it?

This is a fairly common situation, not only in Scotland in the case of English and Gaelic, but also in many other countries all over the world where two or more languages are spoken. The first step is deciding that you want your child to be bilingual. It’s then important that the parent who can speak Gaelic continues to use the language as much as possible in the home so that the child becomes familiar with hearing both languages. There’s no need for the non-Gaelic speaking partner to feel left out, just remember that children love explaining and translating what’s been said in Gaelic. That partner can use English so that the child becomes fully bilingual.

Support your child by taking an interest in their education and in as many aspects of Gaelic activity as possible – internet, television, radio, out-of-school activities and social occasions. There are also many opportunities for parents to learn some Gaelic, very often in special classes for parents.


I’d like my child to have a bilingual education but I’m worried that I won’t be able to help with homework?

Parents usually find that once their child is in school that they need not have worried about homework but when necessary there is support available for parents from teachers and in some schools from Gaelic speaking parents. Homework clubs and other parental support structures are also now more widely available. Schools can provide CDs so that children can listen to reading books being read aloud, particularly at the early years stage. All schools can supply Heinemann Maths homework sheets with English on one side for parents who can’t read Gaelic


How will Gaelic medium education affect my child’s English?

Children in Gaelic medium education are initially taught almost entirely in Gaelic and English reading and writing are generally introduced from P3. Children transfer skills acquired in one language to the other so tend to progress quickly once they start reading in English. In fact, a study conducted at Stirling University in 1999* showed ‘that P7 Gaelic-medium pupils performed better in English than English-medium pupils.’ *Prof. Richard Johnstone, The Attainments of Pupils Receiving Gaelic-medium Primary Education in Scotland, Scottish CILT, Stirling University, 1999.

My child is fluent. Why should I choose Gaelic medium education?

GME reinforces the language of the fluent speakers and encourages them to continue using Gaelic in all situations. It also enables them to become fully literate in the language.


Should I not teach my child English first?

This is a concern that many parents have. It is important to remember that the younger a child is the easier it is for them to learn a language.