Saturday, 25 February 2012

Gaelic Medium Education (GME)

As many will know, James Gillespie's caters for pupils wishing to continue from Primary School with Gaelic. This builds on their GME experiences at Tollcross Primary School. On Thursday of this week I attended a conference In Glasgow for Headteachers of schools with GME to share practices and to learn from others who developed further in this field.

The conference began with an excellent presentation from Dr Antonella Sorace, Professor of Developmental Linguistics at Edinburgh University, on the benefits of Bilingualism. It was suggested that bilingual children aren't necessarily more intelligent than their monolingual peers but that they do have an extra gear. One of the questions I asked was whether further benefits accrued for children who spoke more than two languages and whether the existing research evidence shows that bilingual children perform better academically. It was suggested that the research evidence we have, carried out by Dr Wilson MacLeod from the University of Edinburgh, supports the view that being bilingual offers benefits to children in their learning.

Interestingly and coincidentally, I notice that in this week's edition of the Times Educational Supplement, ''Pupils who speak English as an additional language have achieved an academic breakthrough, with new figures showing a higher proportion have gained five 'good' GCSEs than their native English-speaking counterparts for the first time. Experts attribute their success to the drive and aspiration of immigrant families, combined with the educational boost provided by fluency in more than one language.''

These are interesting developments in schools as far as supporting languages are concerned. As someone who grew up in a bilingual environment, where there was a dominant view that suggested exposure to to an additional language may overload and confuse children it is refreshing to see views that prevailed for generations being successfully challenged. I will return to this particular topic in future blogs as I see enormous benefits of building on the diverse cultural and languages base we have at JGHS.

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