Tag Archives: Gaelic

GME and Additional Support Needs – Oil & Water

8 Oct

Olive oil in water, demonstrating a two-phase ...We’ve known for years now that the Monster finds some things more challenging but it was not until Easter this year, when he was 4, that he was finally given the diagnosis of autism.  Actually, what they said to us was that they were “giving him a diagnosis of autism but that we would recognise him most in what we read about Asperger’s Syndrome.”  Wouldn’t it have been simpler and less confusing to say he has Asperger’s Syndrome?  Although we we told in April, we had spent 15 months attending a variety of appointments as part of his diagnosis and we had been recognising signs in the months before that, so when we were picking a school for our son we had this very much in our minds as well.

Though I’m not teaching at the moment, I am a primary school teacher, and at a party with some teaching friends, who work in the same area as the Gaelic school, I was asked which school I was thinking of for the Monster.  They were aware of our suspicions that the Monster had additional support needs and when they heard that we were considering the Glasgow Gaelic School for him each was quick to advise us against it.  Although I didn’t want to hear what they were saying, I knew they were only talking from a place of caring and concern, and I’d have been foolish to disregard it out of hand.  It wasn’t just that they couldn’t see the point in learning Gaelic because that is something I come across regularly, and something for which I have plenty of research to support my arguments.  They had also worked with children who had been attending the Gaelic school but had been removed and were now in their school.  In their experience, the Glasgow Gaelic School were simply not equipped to deal with additional support needs.

We talked and thought about this long and hard.  I researched as much as it was possible for me to research and, in the end, we decided to go with our heart and send him.  We felt that the fact that the school teaches through the medium of Gaelic doesn’t make the staff less likely to have an awareness of autism spectrum disorders or less likely to be capable of dealing with it.  He had as much chance of finding good staff there who cared enough to help him integrate into their classroom as he did in his local school, and the school has the same obligations to meet the needs of each of their pupils as every other school in Scotland.  We also felt it was possible that if my friends’ only experience of the Gaelic School came from a couple of parents who had chosen to remove their children then their view may be biased – they had not had enough chance to balance their opinion by speaking with parents who were pleased with the education their children were receiving.

The Monster has now been in the school for a whole term (I know!  Where does time go!?).  He still has a long way to go but already in that short space of time I have seen enough to feel glad that we did follow our hearts.  In terms of identifying and working with his specific additional support needs the school have worked very hard.

  • They came out to visit the Monster in his main (English speaking) nursery, liaised with his key worker and sent him home with a picture of his new teacher so he could familiarise himself with it over the summer.
  • They sent out a wee letter from his primary 3 buddy which included a photo so we were able to use his name and get him ready in the run up to school – this wasn’t something special they did for the Monster, it’s something they did for all the new primary 1s.
  • They also took on board what we, as his parents, had to say about our son and his needs.

Today we had a joint support team meeting with the learning support co-ordinator, the depute head teacher, his class teacher and his new educational psychologist.  It was really heartening to hear the steps that have been taken to support our son – he hasn’t just been dropped into class, expected to get on with it and then labelled a “bad boy,” which was our fear before he started school.  The teacher is enthusiastic and her strategies make sense.  More importantly, where there is a perceived gap in her knowledge the school are already filling them – there has recently been CPD on the use of social stories which should be of great benefit to my son.

I should be clear though that my son doesn’t have a language delay or a difficulty with language acquisition.  He may be a bit pedantic but this does not stop him from understanding or communicating in either language.  As his teacher confirmed today he is a wee sponge for language and is determined to know and learn Gaelic.  Whilst having language based support needs shouldn’t stop you from considering (or choosing) the Glasgow Gaelic School for your family you should think about whether sending them may end up being an additional hurdle placed in front of your child.  If they are going to struggle to acquire just one language (English), is it fair to ask them to acquire two?  That is not to say that I don’t think that the school wouldn’t do their utmost to support your child, it’s just something for you to think about should it apply to you.

When I think back to a year ago as we sat here wondering whether we were making the right decision to go with the Glasgow Gaelic School, I’m pleased to say that, as it stands today, I feel that we did.  Each family has to make up its own mind based on their own situation, but what I can tell each of you is that Gaelic Medium Education and Additional Support Needs are not like oil and water – they can and do mix successfully.



7 Sep

It has been so long since I last had time to myself to write here so I thought I’d write a quick update.  Since deciding to send our son to Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu this year we have had much to do:

Over the last few months there have been things in my head that I wanted to write about but I’ve just had no time to do it.  Now that the Monster is at school for full days though, I will have a little time to myself to keep up to date with these things.  I hope so anyway.

Farpais Ceist – Gaelic Pub Quiz

18 May

I’ve been learning Gaelic since January and that whole time I’ve been aware of the monthly Gaelic pub quiz in the Park Bar in Glasgow.  I’ve often thought that it would be a great thing to take part in – or at the very least to be there at the same time as others were taking part in it and let the Gaelic wash over me.  I love listening to people speaking fast, fluent Gaelic to a room of people and the rest of the room suddenly bursting into laughter.  Yes, I have no idea what has been said but it makes me want to be able to understand it even more.  However, as I’m a very new Gaelic learner, I figured it would be a long time before I reached the point where I was able to attend.  My Saturday Club tutor, (the fabulous) Josie, clearly disagreed and she invited my tutorial group to go along on Wednesday night this week and have a go.

Of course, organising a group of adults is like catching a fly in a matchbox.  Emails flew about all week and someone was missed because of a .com rather than a .co.uk but finally we had names and a (wet) concrete arrangement to meet.  Of course, it wasn’t straight forward.  The quiz starts at 8pm but I should be clear that it technically starts at 7.30pm to give you half an hour to get your answer sheet etc all sorted with questions from 8 o’clock.  One of us had said they would be there from 8pm and (because Josie couldn’t get there till after 9pm) he was given the name of someone who would help us with translations.  The next person would be there from 8.15pm, I’d be there around 8.30, and two more were coming around 9pm, plus Josie.  Confused?  So were we – and that was before we started on the questions!

Our first team members didn’t arrive until 8.30 in the end, and by this point they were on question 7 of round 3.  Our knowledge of Gaelic was therefore not an issue – there was no chance we were going to win regardless.  Thank goodness that wasn’t the point (though I’m fiercely competitive so maybe it was the point a little)…  I was quickly filled in on the 3 questions I’d missed when I turned up and was excited that I knew one of the answers!  (Mind you, I think everyone knows that the Spice Girls first number one was Wannabe.)  I should point out here that despite being fiercely competitive I have the general knowledge of a potato so am as much use as a chocolate teapot in quizzes.  We did go on to get the next 5 questions correct in a row but our run of good luck pretty much ended there.  In the end, we got 8 points out of 50 (when doing the questions and answers later we did realise that we would have got an extra 6 if we’d been there on time to hear the questions) so we were very much the losers, and yet we had such a good night that it really didn’t feel that way.

It was great to realise that we’d translated a couple of the questions correctly by ourselves and each of us was able to hear a variety of words we recognised.  It also helped increase our vocabulary because a lot of the questions followed the same structure and used similar vocabulary so we were able to get some good practice.  We all felt that even though we couldn’t have done it without our translators, Josie and Coinneach Combe, we’d had a really good time, we learnt a lot and we’ve already pencilled in next month’s quiz.  Maybe by the time we go to that quiz we’ll have learned how to translate all the jokes that were made at our expense…

We have chosen GME for our family for a number of reasons, but one of those was the opportunity to be a part of a community.  Our lives are becoming more insular – we know the names of so few of our neighbours and don’t get as involved as we once did.  The community aspect of Gaelic does appeal to me. Being able to join in this week was a great first step.

If you’re a newbie Gaelic learner like me and are encouraged to give it a go next time, I’d recommend befriending Gaelic Glasgow on Facebook because most months they give event notifications.  Otherwise the details are as follows:

  • The Gaelic Pub Quiz takes place on the 3rd Saturday of every month from 7.30pm at a cost of £2 per participant, and is in the Park Bar on Argyle St in Glasgow (the West End part of the street).
  • The next pub quiz should therefore be on Wed 20th June 2012.

Will we be seeing you there?

Oh, and I don’t think it was THAT funny that we thought that the island on which Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novel was the Isle of Skye.  I bet we’re not the only ones that didn’t know it was in Jamaica…

Saturday Gaelic Club

16 May

Since the end of January we have been attending the Gaelic Club on a Saturday morning in the Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu and I can’t believe that summer (of a sort) is nearly here.  It seems strange to think that in a couple of weeks the club will be over for a few months.  I think it would be difficult to overstate what it has given us as a family – time together working towards a shared goal, learning Gaelic (us through proper lessons, my son through play), making new friends and dipping our toes into our local Gaelic community, and the chance to ride a bike without stabilisers (well, my son has, and perhaps “ride” is a little ambitious).  The club really is a fabulous resource.

I suppose that’s why I was saddened to hear that Glasgow City Council are making it difficult for the club to function to its fullest capacity.  Bear with me here because as I’m new my understanding of the present situation is limited but it appears that Glasgow Life aren’t sure that the club is worth their investment.  Words like “creche” are bandied about, and some staff have gone several months now without payment – yet they are devoted enough to continue to turn up whilst the situation is resolved.  It is no wonder that there is a feeling that the council hope to close the club by extinction methods if they can’t do it outright.  I do appreciate that running the club requires a lot of funding from the council but losing the club would, I believe, be a big mistake.  I wonder if they’ve thought about what they’d put in its place to further the learning of Gaelic by families in Glasgow.  I doubt it.

A group of parents hope to meet to look at the club and consider how to ensure it stays alive for a long time to come.  It’s easy to fear that this is the first nail in its coffin and yet I choose to look at such a discussion as positive.  I hope that the idea is to look at ways to build on the club’s current successes and make it clear to the council that it is still a vibrant, necessary part of Glasgow city life – whether that be by restructuring the organisation a little, making some additions or even coming to the conclusion that the club perfectly fits its purpose as it is at the moment and adding further support to the evidence the council have already been presented with.

I don’t know much about the behind-the-scenes running of the club, though it seems like the bulk of the grunt work falls at just one or maybe two people’s feet.  What I do see is that there could be more families there on a Saturday morning.  Getting families to attend anything is always challenging as you work around shift patterns, clubs & organisations, visiting friends & family, but that’s probably not the only reason.  It might be interesting to find out how people hear about the club – what brought them along in the first place?  I saw details about it on the school website but the language barrier coupled with the information given being old put me off for several months.

I didn’t know:

  • if the club was still running,
  • if you had to have a child in the school/nursery to attend,
  • if you could start at any point in the year or if you needed to start in August,
  • if there was a lower age limit for children, and
  • how much it cost.

Perhaps a first step to redressing this is to think about how the club communicates not only with existing families but also with those who would be interested in coming if only they knew more about it.  Could Facebook & Twitter be used to give more up to date information – maybe even a simple website with information for prospective families?  The second step I would take would be to make it easier to “drop in.”  Obviously this is less of a problem for those who already have a little Gaelic, but it’s harder for new-to-Gaelic families to come along mid term because there’s a sense that they’ll not catch up with the current intake of beginners so it’s better to just wait for the new term.  That does make sense but sometimes it’s more important to strike whilst the iron is hot – to get people through the door whilst they’re motivated and help them to see why it’s important to come back for a proper start in the new term.

Because it is important.  Yes, the children “play” whilst the adults “learn” but it only takes a quick look at the Curriculum for Excellence to realise that learning through play – learning by doing – is how children learn best.  Any parent who has no/little Gaelic and yet who has had to start playing “Dè ‘n uair a tha e, Maighstir Madadh-allaidh” (What’s the time, Mr Wolf) and “tunnag, tunnag, gèadh ” (duck, duck, goose) with their four year old son, or realised that their 24 month old daughter can count to ten in both English and Gaelic will tell you that there is real substance – real value – to the time spent there on a Saturday morning .  It is most definitely not a creche.  I only wish they had a Gaelic play group there for the under 3s (though it hasn’t stopped my daughter!) but then that’s why we need Glasgow City Council to continue supporting its constituents.

So perhaps over the summer we need to take the time to raise awareness of the Saturday Gaelic Club and ensure that it lives to promote the Gaelic language for another year.  You can help with this by sharing the details of the club to spread the word that little bit further.

If you’re interested:

  • it meets on Saturday mornings from 10am till 12pm.
  • I know that several of the families in the same beginners’ class as me have no children in the school or, in some cases, even the nurseries yet (they’re starting young!) so I don’t think you need to feel you have to hold off until your child is five.
  • the last club of this school session is Saturday 26th May – (probably a more informal affair that day.)
  • It costs £5 for a family and £1.50 (I believe) for individual adults.

(I hope all that is correct but if it’s wrong maybe someone could let me know and I’ll update it.)

Who knows?!  Maybe I’ll see one Saturday in the not too distant future…

Mummy, how do you say “fichead” in English?*

29 Apr

My son, the Monster, asked me this yesterday. I see it as a good sign that his Gaelic is sinking in.  In fact, he can already count to 39 in Gaelic which is more than he can do in English. I think he hears the patterns better, and if he forgets what comes next he can work it out quickly himself.

I wonder if this is something that will happen more and more in the future – that he’ll be picking up brand new ideas and vocabulary in Gaelic, that are taught and explained to him in Gaelic at school so that he will need to ask us for the English separately. I’ve been taught to ask, “ciamar a tha thu ag radh ___ ann an Gaidhlig?” for my course.  Maybe in future I’ll be hearing, “ciamar a tha thu ag radh ___ ann an Beurla?”

*fichead means 20.  (And please excuse any spelling mistakes.)

How do you expose yourself to more Gaelic?

3 Apr

We are now almost 3 months in to learning Gaelic as a family.  My husband and I have covered lots of basic vocabulary and there’s been some grammar thrown in along the way.  We can hold a simple conversation, though we can only meet people once as there’s a limit to how often we can tell them where we’re from and where we live at the moment.  I look forward to the day we can use our Gaelic in a natural setting, and though that seems like a lifetime away I do believe it will happen one day.

There are two important things that I think we need to really help our Gaelic to grow.

  • Firstly, we need to find/make more time to practise with each other rather than cramming the night before.  At the moment we’ve been getting away with it because there’s a limit to the questions we can be asked, but each week that gets harder and harder.
  • Secondly, we need to hear Gaelic spoken fluently, naturally.

Making the time is a matter of prioritising.  In the same way that we can make sure there’s time for Desperate Housewives, we need to make sure we’re giving some time to Gaelic, even if it means “sacrificing” ironing time and having to wear crushed clothes sometimes.  (Oh, the hardship!)  I think I’ll make that suggestion to Gaelic Medium Dad…

It’s hearing natural Gaelic that’s a bit trickier.  As I work at night it’s difficult for us to get out to Gaelic community events, (and I think we’re still at a very self conscious stage so a bit too shy to try it out), so I think we’re going to have to go with BBC Alba at the moment.  My husband happily watched football on BBC Alba this weekend, listening for numbers he could recognise and hearing “An Eaglais Bhreac” (Falkirk) spoken naturally.  However, as great as it is to hear the flow of the language, and to be able to pick out random words, it’s difficult to hold your attention when almost everything is going over your head, so we’ve started watching the children’s programmes.  We can all pick out “Is mise” and “cluich an-diugh” on the Abadas, and learned “ga iarraidh” from Igam Ogam.  I think we’ve found our intellectual level.

Are there any simple programmes you can suggest that we watch?  We’d watch Speaking our Language but we’d need to start at/near the beginning, and sadly, Dotaman is no longer being shown.

In fact, maybe that’s what we need – to get Donnie MacLeod, Anna Murray and Dotaman back on our screens!

Do you have to learn Gaelic if your children are in GME?

19 Mar

At the recent Gaelic school facilitation day, I was struck by the idea that some people aren’t sure if learning Gaelic is a necessary part of sending your child to a GME school.  I suppose it struck me as unusual because I had never really pondered the question.  I’m sending my children to a Gaelic school so I want to learn the language too.  Whether it’s necessary or not to learn it had never really crossed my mind.

Perhaps the first thing to consider is the reason for choosing a Gaelic Medium Education for your children.  There are so many benefits including being bilingual, supporting a minority language – our minority language – and also the possibility that your local Gaelic school/unit has an excellent reputation.  But there are also cons to weigh up – if your child has additional support needs will they be met appropriately, will you cope with the homework, will the other children in the class stay so far away that it’s not easy for them to meet up out of school?  Certainly, deciding on the Gaelic school was a big decision for us but as part of that decision making process we had to consider our ability to prioritise the time to learn a new language.

In order to give my children the best support at school my husband and I want to be able to understand at least the basics of the work they’re doing.  We accept that it’s unlikely that we will ever achieve the fluency that our children will have, but it would be great to be able to share their reading books and school work with them, and follow their school concerts or assemblies.  For that to happen, we need to apply a little elbow grease.

However, learning a new language is easier said than done.  The time we can commit to it is limited because my husband works during the day whilst I care for the children, and then this is reversed three nights a week when I go out to work.  Ùlpan courses sound really effective but neither of us can go out twice a week for them, and the same applies to local beginners classes that I have found listed online.  Fortunately for us, I have begun An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, the course with a weekly phone tutorial and, though it is early days, so far it seems to be really good.  We all listen to the course work CDs in the car, I don’t need to leave the house for tutorials, and it helps to reinforce what we are learning as a family at the Saturday Gaelic Club.  Could I hold my own in a conversation with a native speaker?  No.  Not yet, anyway.  But it’s a start.

Of course, very few of these courses are free, and when finances are tight (as they are for us) the cost of courses is a major consideration.  I’m fortunate that I qualify for ILA funding but I have no idea how I’m going to pay for next term, which starts after the summer.  I’m sure we’re not the only family with those concerns, and this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are a number of issues that each family needs to address in order to start learning Gaelic.  So if your family is facing these or other/more obstacles, is it fair to be judged for choosing Gaelic medium education but not Gaelic family learning?

Maybe we need to turn this issue on its head.  What does deciding not to learn Gaelic mean?  Will it mean, for instance, that homework, when not bilingual, becomes harder and harder to support them with?  Of course, homework should be a consolidation of what they’ve already learned but children often forget what they were asked to do, or don’t understand how something is worded in English, never mind Gaelic.  However, with a good support network of other parents I’m told that this is not an insurmountable challenge.  In fact, I believe there’s even a live homework help at night on www.gaelic4parents.com and I suppose we could see it as an extra opportunity to really share our children’s learning with them.  Every cloud has a silver lining, and all that.

For me, I wonder what it would suggest to my children if I didn’t make the effort.  How do I answer them if they ask me why it is important that they learn a new language and explore our heritage, but not me?  If I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have made an effort to learn, and am continuing to, is that a sufficient response, because surely there cannot be an expectation that as adult learners without the benefit of immersion that we must learn Gaelic to fluency in order to have our children qualify for GME?  Certainly, the school has never made me feel that it is a requirement.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer to this question that will fit everyone.  I’m sure that the school prefer families to learn Gaelic but they are well equipped to deal with supporting those families who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to do so.  Each family must make a decision based on their own circumstances and no one should be judged for whatever their decision may be.  For us, who knows what the future holds, but we have started out learning Gaelic as a family and I hope that that continues.