Appeal for teachers to take Gaelic

7th May 2004 at 01:00
As Gaelic kicked off this year's national exams on Tuesday, the headteacher of Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow and the registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland appealed for even more teachers to expand the language.

The south side secondary is presenting 20 pupils for exams in Gaelic from S4 to S6 - five are doing Standard grade geography and four history through Gaelic-medium classes.

Joan Donnelly, Hillpark's head, said that if more teachers were available students could take up other subjects. The school currently has three Gaelic teachers who double up in social subjects.

"We would like to extend the number of subjects but we need appropriately qualified staff. Parents are keen on it. We already do Gaelic and history, geography and social education through Gaelic and registration in the morning and afternoon through Gaelic," Mrs Donnelly said.

In all, 52 pupils throughout the school are embracing the language, many following through from Glasgow's Gaelic primary. Next session, 14 will join the S1 Gaelic unit. Pupils come to the specialist unit from across the city and outwith council boundaries.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority used the school to illustrate growing demand for Gaelic beyond traditional island and Highland communities. This week, 867 candidates were taking the Standard grade in 39 schools and centres.

Anton Colella, SQA chief executive, said: "Year on year, the numbers are growing at a time when people are concerned about the demise of the language. We are keen to support this as part of our cultural heritage."

The authority is now running courses for beginners and fluent speakers and for students learning subjects through Gaelic.

Matthew MacIver, GTC registrar, who has been a history marker for 30 years - the past 10 in Gaelic-medium courses - said that secondaries were critical to the Gaelic renaissance. "But we now need a whole generation of Gaelic teachers to take over the responsibility for setting and marking," he stressed.

Mr MacIver, former headteacher of the Royal High in Edinburgh, was presented with a silver quaich from the SQA for his continued commitment to marking. He was ready to give up in 1993 after 20 years but a lack of markers for the new Gaelic-medium history courses persuaded him to carry on for an extra year. Eleven years on, he is still marking.

"I'm a historian, not a Gaelic specialist," remarked the native speaker from Portnaguran in Lewis. "It is remarkable how the standards have been maintained and the SQA is always very fair to candidates."

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