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MSPs urged to back bonus for Gaelic

Financial incentives may have to be introduced to address the shortage of Gaelic teachers, the education director of Highland Council warned MSPs this week, Elizabeth Buie writes.

Bruce Robertson told the Scottish Parliament's education committee that teacher shortage was the biggest single obstacle to the development of the Gaelic language in Scotland.

Mr Robertson told The TES Scotland that a debate was overdue on issues such as offering bonuses to attract Gaelic speakers into teaching, as happens with shortage subjects such as maths in England, or even allowing them to enter the profession higher up the pay scale than the current basic salary of around pound;22,000.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council also had to address a particular anomaly which acted as a disincentive to Gaelic speakers entering teacher training. Students on the two-year part-time distance-learning postgraduate courses for teacher training, run by Aberdeen University, were required to pay fees, whereas those on the normal one-year PGCE course were not.

Referring to the most recent census returns, Mr Robertson said that three times as many Gaelic-medium pupils would need to enter the system for the Gaelic language just to stand still, and that was unlikely to happen.

"That means that we must see the future of Gaelic within the context of also being a second language in our school system," he said. Research in the Highlands confirmed that while there might be a relatively small percentage of parents willing to opt for Gaelic-medium education, thousands were interested in their children learning the language in the same the way as French or German.

The committee heard from both Highland and Western Isles councils that a major gap in Gaelic provision in secondary schools across Scotland was hampering development of the language.

Both councils also called for a statutory link between the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000 and the proposed Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill to ensure that there was a holistic approach to the development of Gaelic.

Mr Robertson described the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act as being "somewhat ambivalent" in its approach to Gaelic, despite the fact that it was one of Scotland's national priorities.

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