Scots and 'a want o awninin schuils'

28th February 2003 at 00:00
"A WANT o awnin Scots in schuils will lead tae bruckleness for the leid," MSPs on Holyrood's education, culture and sport committee warn in their translated report on preserving minority languages.

In other words, lack of recognition in schools for Scots and other languages will put them at risk. There is still a concern that Scots is regarded as inferior to English and is still seen by teachers as slang or unacceptable.

The cross-party inquiry - promoted in English but published in seven languages - calls for a comprehensive policy which recognises the place of Gaelic, Scots and community languages. It also accepts the need for further research. But the SNP, in particular, wants whatever policy eventually emerges integrated far more widely into schools.

Karen Gillon, the committee's Labour convener, said at last week's launch:

"Having no policy in place to support and develop our minority languages is in fact a covert policy to allow these languages to die out." It was clear from the evidence that learning more than one language has positive effects on a student's abilities, Ms Gillon said.

Irene McGugan, SNP, who led the inquiry, said that the majority of evidence related to Scots and the demand for more support. Many campaigners are pressing for official or legal status and therefore public recognition, although only SNP-run Angus Council has a policy on the Scots language and its relationship to Scottish culture.

The report observes: "In many instances, the teaching of Scots consists of studies of poetry written in Scots (eg Hugh MacDiarmid). However, according to Matthew Fitt, writerteacher, even if Scots poems and vocabulary are used in schools, there is little or no explanation of what particular words mean and learning is merely by rote."

Materials such as the Kist, produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland, were still scarce, critics told the inquiry.

The report accepts there is a continuing debate about the definitions of the Scots language and, despite the disagreements, that there is a public demand for it to be "recognised, incorporated and validated" in schools. It would help preserve the language and extend the country's cultural heritage.

In their recommendations, MSPs call for more financial support for minority languages, further research into the use of Scots, backed by a statistical analysis, and more in-service training for teachers to allow them to teach Scots from P1 onwards.

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