Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Naiseanta na Gàidhlig is sending a strong message of support and encouragement to parents considering Gaelic Medium Education for their child or children, as the dates for enrolment approach.
Stòrlann provides an impressive range of teaching materials for Gaelic education settings across Scotland — and is today stressing that it also supports parents who may not be able to speak Gaelic themselves and be concerned about how to support their child.
The main sources of support for parents are online: the gaelic4parents.com website and its Homework Help section, where parents can have live online chats with teachers and get answers to whatever Gaelic-related query they have.
Acknowledging parents’ possible concerns as they come to decision time about Gaelic Medium Education, Stòrlann chief executive Donald W Morrison said: “As a parent of three children who successfully completed Gaelic Medium Education, I would say… go for it. The whole system has been in place now for over 30 years and is working very effectively. It’s designed to support parents, both Gaelic speaking and non-Gaelic speaking.
“The risk is in not going for it because the advantages to Gaelic Medium Education are many.
“The cultural, environmental and academic aspects of Gaelic work to strengthen a sense of identity. A further benefit comes in the form of the enhanced job opportunities that come thereafter and the added bonus is it’s fun being able to function in two or three languages.”
The gaelic4parents.com website is widely recognised as an “invaluable service to parents and children being taught Gaelic through GME throughout Scotland”. These were the words of Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald when he tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate it on its 10th anniversary back in 2016.
One of the main attractions of gaelic4parents.com is its online collection of hundreds of audio books, including the Storyworld books which children have to read for homework. If a parent is unable to read it or wanting to check pronunciation, the sound files are available at the touch of a button.
Audio books are available from other ranges too, such as the Gaelic Bookbug scheme, and co-edition ‘hits’, such as Acair’s An Gruffalo. In total, audio books were played 40,568 times on gaelic4parents in the last year.
The website is for all parents and children interested and involved in Gaelic education. As well as audio books, there are online games, songs, stories and more — all designed, as Stòrlann says, “to help you enjoy the experience of learning Gaelic, whatever your age or ability”.
One of the key features of the website, though, is the online chat service Homework Help, where parents can get direct help from a qualified and experienced teacher.
It operates during the school term, from Monday to Thursday between 5pm and 7pm, and is manned by two teachers: Inge Birnie in Aberlour and Anne Marie Henderson in Lewis. It works as a live chat where parents simply click on a button to ask for help.
Megan Macdonald, who lives in Lewis, has two daughters in Gaelic Medium Education and feels the support available on the website has been their safety net.
She said: “I couldn’t put the girls in Gaelic if it wasn’t for this. It would be impossible because I have no words. It’s just brilliant, especially by the time they get to P3 because their words are a wee bit more difficult.
“It wasn’t a decision we took lightly. I thought, can I manage? Will I be able to do their homework? I honestly couldn’t have done it without gaelic4parents.”
The gaelic4parents support has a wider online reach too, with pages on Facebook and Twitter @gaelic4parents. The Facebook page has become a mini community in its own right, with more than 4,300 likes and an average weekly reach of 10,000.
Its word list posts regularly go viral, too. The International Women’s Day word list attracted nearly 40,000 page views, with the next most popular topics being Christmas, Winter and Halloween.
It also functions as an informal version of Homework Help as the Stòrlann staff who run it will do their best to answer queries if parents have a problem outwith the live chat times for Homework Help — and Facebook rates the page as being “very responsive to messages”.
Donald W Morrison said: “As an online community, the Gaelic4Parents Facebook site is popular and growing. It’s all part of the support we give to parents and the support parents give to one another. One of Stòrlann’s key roles is to support parents into becoming confident of Gaelic Education. If parents enrol their child in Gaelic Education, and we very much hope that they do, they are not making an error – they are making a very wise choice.”