Benefits of bilingual teaching generate demand for new generation of Gaelic teachers

Leugh sa Ghàidhlig

Latest figures from The Highland Council reveal significant attainment for Gaelic Medium pupils. Figures compiled by the local authority for SQA attainment levels set against mainstream pupils demonstrate that pupils receiving Gaelic Medium education attain a higher proportion of Credit level awards than their counterparts in English.

A report to The Highland Council’s Gaelic Committee (25 September) on SQA attainment in Gaelic highlighted that initial results from Highland Secondary Schools in 2009 indicate that pupils do well not just in learning Gaelic but also in their other core subjects.

Councillor Hamish Fraser, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Gaelic Committee said: "These results demonstrate very clearly the benefits of giving children a bilingual education. Far from holding pupils back, as some critics would have it, this is proof again that pupils learning in Gaelic Medium schools not only do well in Gaelic but match and better their peers in other subjects.

“This is why demand for Gaelic Medium Education is strong and why we need to do everything in our power to try and accommodate that growth by attracting and training a new generation of Gaelic Medium teachers."

Members of the Council’s Gaelic committee were informed by Hugh Fraser, Highland Council’s Director of Education, Culture and Sport that in S1 and S2, pupils are achieving a good standard of Gaelic reading and writing.

He said: “This is a creditable achievement given that many of the young people come from families where Gaelic is not spoken. This may also have helped their English medium reading and writing where the same pupils have a higher level of achievement than the year group as a whole.”

In the report he gave examples that by the end of S2, the average percentage achieving level E in Gaelic over the past 5 years has been 72.6% in reading and 58% in writing. The equivalent English Medium reading and writing scores for these pupils are 79.7% and 68.2% respectively. These are around 9% higher than the average for the year groups as a whole.

Gaelic medium pupils give a good performance in Mathematics. By the end of S2 the average percentage of Gaelic medium pupils over the past 5 years at 74.2% is around 8% higher than the average of the year groups as whole.

Almost all Gaelic medium pupils continue to the end of S4 where they sit exams formerly designed for native speakers. Their achievement is sound with a higher proportion gaining Credit level awards than the overall cohort in English. Gaelic learners also do particularly well with a high level of Credit and General awards and standing well in comparison with French and German.

By the time pupils reach S5 and S6 numbers become too small for percentages. 25 out of 28 pupils sitting Higher Gaelic Medium gained and A – C award. There was not such a good performance this year from Gaelic Learners in S5 but it is thought that the SQA Appeals process may make a difference here. An encouraging 18 pupils took Higher Gaelic Learners in S6 and 13 gained A – C awards.

There were very small numbers in S6 doing Advance Higher. 3 Gaelic Medium and 8 Gaelic Learners gained awards at A-C.

29 Sep 2009