The modern era of Gaelic Medium Education in Scotland’s primary schools took off in the 1980s. Since that time the number of children attending Gaelic Medium schools has been growing and this week the announcement was made that the fourth Gaelic Medium primary school will open in Portree on the Isle of Skye.
One of the main aims of the Bòrd na Gàidhlig, an organisation founded in 2003 and charged in 2006 with supporting the implementation of Scotland’s 2005 Language Act, is development of Gaelic Medium Education. In its Annual Report for 2013/2014 the Bòrd reported on the dramatic growth in Gaelic medium education showing a 6% increase in primary school and a 7% increase in secondary school enrollment.
The Bòrd works to gain additional funding to support the promotion of Gaelic-medium education in 5 locations across Scotland. The areas identified are: the Western Isles; Dingwall; Tain; Perth and Stirling. Minister for Gaelic, Dr Alasdair Allan said: “We are very pleased to be able to support the Bòrd on such a worth while campaign. It is important that the message of the benefits of bilingualism and Gaelic-medium education is promoted to the parents of young children where they can be accessed in Scotland. The Bòrd have used new and innovative ways to market Scotland’s ‘hidden secret’ over the last two years, such as advertising in the underground system in Glasgow, the use of billboards and also television advertising, and they have proved very successful. I look forward to seeing the new campaign up and running in these new targeted areas.”The rise in Gaelic Medium Education has had an impact on census figures on Gaelic speakers. “The 2011 census results gave us very encouraging evidence that the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland has almost stabilised since the census of 2001. This is mainly due to the rise in Gaelic-medium education which has seen excellent growth since its inception in 1985. The trend shows that within the next ten years the long term decline of the language could be reversed. “
The Bòrd na Gàidhlig mission under the 2005 legislation is summarised as follows from the organisation’s web site: "The Bòrd na Gàidhlig, works to promote Gaelic in Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government, the people of Scotland and Gaelic organisations to improve the status of the Gaelic tongue throughout Scotland." Interestingly the 2005 law extends the Bòrd’s brief beyond Scotland giving the Bòrd stewardship for Scots Gaelic beyond the borders of Scotland as has been recently shown in its support for the Scots Gaelic revival now underway in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
In an article entitled "Language as Activism: The Big Gaelic Comeback - The Native Tongue of the Highlands and Islands Seemed to be Dying Out - Until The Latest Figures Were Released", Cal Flyn writing in 2013 in the New Statesman cites the growth in the number of children who are being taught in the Gaelic medium: " There is a Gaelic revival under way. Increasing numbers of parents – even those who don’t speak the language – are opting to send their children to Gaelic-medium schools, where all subjects are taught in the language. In 1985 there were only 24 primary school children being taught in Gaelic; last year the figure was 2,953. Sixty-one schools across Scotland now offer Gaelic-medium education. The expectation is that, as time passes, these young Gaels will revitalise a language that is intricately tied up with their country’s identity. “