Learning to work as a Gaelic-medium teacher: the role of universities in developing skills in bilingual pedagogy and professional Gaelic

Joanna Mcpake, Fiona O'Hanlon

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Teacher education courses for those wishing to work in Gaelic-medium education (GME) primary and secondary classrooms have been on offer in Scottish Schools of Education for some 25 years. However, the original model assumed that prospective teachers would already be fluent Gaelic speakers, and that their needs would differ little from those of others wishing to work in the English-medium sector: the curriculum is the same in both sectors, as are the regulations governing initial teacher education and (now) teachers’ career long professional development. However, over this period, the Gaelic-speaking population has changed significantly. Ongoing language shift means that fewer people consider themselves to be ‘fully fluent’ and ‘fully literate’ in Gaelic. Instead many – including those who are graduates of GME schools – describe themselves as ‘learners’ or ‘new speakers’ (McLeod et al, 2014) of Gaelic. They recognise that to become GME teachers they require a professional register, both spoken and written, and specialist pedagogical skills. These include the ability to support the Gaelic language development of both fluent and learner pupils, to develop literacy skills in Gaelic and English, and to enable children to reap the benefits of growing up bilingual. In addition, given the important strategic role now allocated to GME in national plans for Gaelic revitalisation, GME teachers need to be advocates for Gaelic, responsible not only for building capacity and providing opportunities for children to develop their Gaelic, but also for creating the desire to use it within and outwith the classroom (Lo Bianco & Peyton, 2013). This presentation outlines how these elements have been incorporated into the new Gaelic Immersion for Teachers (GIfT) course, developed jointly by the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh and running for the first time in 2014-15. It focuses in particular on the role that the university, the profession and the wider community of Gaelic speakers (learners and fluent) play in creating the next generation of GME teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2015
EventThe Multilingual University: ESRC Seminar Series (Seminar 3) - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Jun 201519 Jun 2015


ConferenceThe Multilingual University: ESRC Seminar Series (Seminar 3)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • minority language teacher education
  • Scottish Gaelic
  • teaching Gaelic


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