Tag Archives: Glasgow Gaelic School

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.

Update

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.

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.)

We got news of our placing request today

28 Apr

…and we got in!  Although we had been pretty confident about that, as the end of April approached I was starting to get a little bit concerned.  So, the Monster is off to visit the school with his nursery on Tuesday. Exciting times!

Now, I really must get my head round the dative case…

Gaelic for Toddlers: pàrant is pàisde

7 Feb

More and more, in the last few weeks, I have wished that there were a pàrant is pàisde AKA Gaelic parent and toddlers for my daughter to attend.  My son’s Gaelic nursery kindly gave me details of one in the west end of Glasgow but we can’t make it because we wouldn’t be able to drop off & pick up my son from nursery.  They also gave me details of a local playgroup but, though it may be a little handier, it’s still not practical.

I’m seriously tempted to set up something informal – just tea & biscuits at my house (for the adults, I’m sure I could drum up something more appropriate for a few wee kids) with some other mums I capture meet at my son’s nursery and at the Saturday Gaelic club, and just see how it pans out.  Yes, this means that I’d need to tidy up, a skill I still need to hone, but it would be much more flexible and relaxed than turning up as the new girl to yet another club.  I’ve joined a couple of clubs with my daughter recently and been feeling so out of my depth that I really don’t need to add to it, so maybe that would be the solution.

The difficult question to answer is: what do I actually want out of a pàrant is pàisde?  Whilst an abundance of toys and activities for my daughter would be lovely, I don’t think that’s a crucial part of what I’m looking for (though a few would be good).  In essence, I’m looking for a simple place to go with my daughter where she can play with other children who may one day be in her class and where we can practise some simple songs and phrases to use about the house. I want a place to chat with people who perhaps already have children in the school – not just about school issues, but to know that I could would be great.   I want somewhere to try out this new, alien vocabulary with people who are in the same boat. I want to make some friends who understand this journey we are on.

A quick look on Netmums flagged up a Pàrant ‘s Pàisde in Kilmarnock.  It sounds right up my street, except that sadly, it is nowhere near my street so I can’t pop along.  It describes itself like this:

“The toddlers group is a relaxed, informal group where parents can chat over a cup of tea/coffee and find out more about benefits of a bilingual education and the children can play, take part in craft activities and learn some Gaelic songs and nursery rhymes.  Why not come along and find out more about this fantastic opportunity?”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it!?

But at the end of the day, none of this matters if I’m the only one who feels a need for something like this.  It would be a very lonely (though tasty) biscuit if I’m the only one sitting eating.  I suppose I should put my feelers out and try to guage interest.  Or maybe just stick with the original plan to capture people at the gates.  Wait, did I just say that out loud…….?

If you (or anyone you know) would be interested in a pàrant is pàisde (or anything like it) then I’d love to hear from you – I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Gaelic v Catholic education

30 Jan

Twice in the last two weeks I’ve come across the same issue surrounding the Glasgow Gaelic School and it’s an issue that has nothing to do with the pros and cons of immersion, whether Gaelic is useful or not, and whether the school is well enough equipped to deal with children with additional support needs.  The issue that has cropped up recently has been about religion – specifically, that the Gaelic school isn’t a Catholic school.

I’m proudly Church of Scotland (though I don’t profess to be an expert) so I suppose considering denominational schools has never been high on my list of priorities.  To me, a good school is one which covers a broad curriculum, covering religious and moral education as a part of that, using a wide variety of engaging strategies.  Being exposed to the culture, ethics and religious teachings of a variety of cultures – especially when we live in a multicultural society – is, to me, a good thing.  But then, I have grown up in non-denominational schools so it’s what I know.  Whilst I may have chosen to send my children to a school where the language of the classroom won’t be English as it was for me, the content of the curriculum is broadly speaking the same (there are small curricular differences in every school) so I will still have a shared experience with my children.  But why should I assume that just because I prefer a non-denominational education that every other parent will feel the same?

So how do the families I have spoken with this week feel?

One is a family with two children, both slightly younger than mine.  The mother and I are friends, and so she has followed my research and experiences with interest.  When she raised the option of Gaelic medium education with her family they were very positive about it, but the first question – as she knew it would be – was, “but what about their religious education?”  And this is a large part of her reserves about going down this route.  She knows that she can take her children to church and still provide that religious instruction for them, but her experiences of school will be different, the preparation for their first communion in primary four will be different (and I’m sure there are many other aspects that she must consider in relation to this too, these were simply the first things she mentioned to me).  Choosing to send her children there has added implications for her, if you like.

Other families have found that the decision to go for GME hasn’t been an easy one, though I suppose it rarely is.  When local schools are good, it can be hard to break from “the norm” especially when the question of religious education complicates matters. The lack of Catholic teaching at the Gaelic school becomes a consideration but, as several mothers said to me, the responsibility of their child’s religious education is their own, and one pointed out that lately, in her experience, the children do not go through their first communion as a class but at their local parish church so perhaps there isn’t the same “need” to send your child to a Catholic school.

The debate surrounding faith schools is one that can bring with it strong feelings, and I’m not looking to get bogged down in complex arguments, but I do wonder how other parents have handled this issue and whether there are parents out there who would have chosen GME but for the lack of Catholic instruction in the school.

Do we dare to dream that GME will one day be so mainstream that the powers that be would even consider opening a Catholic Gaelic school – not because I feel we need denominational education (because to be honest, I don’t) but because it means that there is a significant, accepted demand for Gaelic?

We don’t know what the future holds and in the meantime each family must make their own decision.  For me, I’m glad we have started down this path and I look forward to all the challenges, opportunities and adventures to come.