Project underway to boost outdoor education delivery in Gaelic
A project is now underway to boost the delivery of outdoor activity training through the Gaelic language. Based at Glenmore Lodge, the national outdoor activity training centre, the Spòrs Gàidhlig project will eventually see four people trained to deliver a wide range of outdoor activities to Gaelic speaking young people and other groups.
The first 12-month project, which will run until September 2018, has already seen three people employed by Spòrs Gàidhlig, who are now based at Glenmore Lodge: a project co-ordinator; and two ‘Gaelic language trainee instructors’.
The £300,000 project, under the banner of ‘Spòrs Gàidhlig’ (see notes to editors), has been developed by Comunn na Gàidhlig (CnaG) – one of Scotland’s longest-established Gaelic development organisations, and is being taken forward thanks to a strong funding and strategic partnership including the LEADER programme in the Cairngorm National Park (£90k), Comunn na Gàidhlig’s own investment (£54k), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (£40k), the Scottish Government (£30k), Bòrd na Gàidhlig (£30k), and the AMW Charitable Trust (£2k) (See notes to editors for further breakdown)
As part of the effort so develop the Gaelic language in Scotland, and grow the numbers of Gaelic speakers, a strong strategic focus is being placed on the development of Gaelic Medium Education (GME) which sees pupils learning a range of core subjects through Gaelic. Growing numbers of pupils in GME, coupled with increasing emphasis on the further benefits of outdoor learning, form the background to the Spòrs Gàidhlig project. Until now opportunities for GME pupils to undertake exciting and challenging outdoor and adventurous activities through the Gaelic language have been extremely limited.
Now, as the new trainee instructors gain their outdoor qualifications over the next 12 months, they will be able to provide activity sessions to Gaelic speakers and others, in a range of activities including: hill-walking, gorge-walking, canoeing and rafting, mountain biking, and bushcraft.
Not only will this be enjoyable and challenging for the participants, but it will help the development of their language skills and vocabulary. Outdoor learning is now increasingly recognised as a key means of developing young people, addressing health and wellbeing targets as well as academic achievement.
The project is being managed by Donald Morris, and the new trainee instructors are Calum MacLean and Euan Mackenzie. Calum, from Inverness, has worked with the BBC as a Gaelic news journalist, and has recently presented a series of short programmes on wild swimming at various locations in Scotland. Euan, from Dingwall, has a background in environmental science, and was also an international youth camp leader in Madagascar.
The second year of the project will see a further two trainee instructors employed. Depending on demand, Spòrs Gàidhlig hopes to be able to employ one or two of these instructors on a full-time basis once the initial two years of the project are completed.
Project Manager Donald Morris said: “We know, from our track record at CnaG, that there is a growing demand for outdoor and adventurous activities in Gaelic. Our Sradagan camps have grown in number each year; we’ve rolled out a ‘John Muir Award’ programme across 6 of our development areas; we’ve established a successful ski camp onto our annual programme; and this year we ran our first cycle adventure for young people – from Barra to the Butt of Lewis. All of these activities motivate young Gaelic-speakers and help them use their language in a fun, social setting. We want to do more of this, but the one key limitation we have in expanding this provision further is the lack of qualified, Gaelic-speaking instructing staff, and Spòrs Gàidhlig is intended to address this.”
CnaG chairman Ian MacAulay said: “We are very grateful to all of our funders and strategic partners for the opportunity to take this project forward, from the first developmental year, to the second 12 months of consolidation, marketing and delivery. While CnaG is making a significant investment in the project, we couldn’t have taken this forward without external support.”
The key funder in the Spòrs Gàidhlig project is the LEADER 2014-20 programme in the Cairngorms National Park. Roger Clegg, Chair of the Cairngorms Local Action Group said: ‘We are pleased to be able to approve LEADER funding to support Spòrs Gàidhlig and welcome the launch of this interesting and innovative project which fits well with several of the themes in the Local Development Strategy”.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Head of Community Growth, Neil Ross, said: “We are keen to support a local business seeking to use Gaelic as an asset to expand and grow, creating new employment opportunities. It’s great to see more outdoor activities being set up for young people through the medium of Gaelic and we are delighted to support this project”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are very pleased to support the Spòrs Gàidhlig project which will play an important role in bringing Gaelic alive in new and exciting ways for our young people and others.
“The Scottish Government recognises that Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland's heritage, national identity and current cultural life and we welcome initiatives such as this which strengthen the position of Gaelic within everyday life, helping to ensure it has a sustainable future.”
Speaking on behalf of Bòrd na Gàidhlig Daibhidh Boag, Director of Language Planning and Community Developments said: “We are delighted to support Spòrs Gàidhlig, this new partnership venture led by Comunn na Gàidhlig, which will target young Gaelic speakers and which will expand the range of sports and outdoor activities which are available to people of all ages and abilities through the medium of Gaelic”
Shaun Roberts, Glenmore Lodge Principal said: “A positive early outdoor experience will connect young people with their natural environment. This connection typically establishes a life-long relationship with the outdoors, which in turn can lead to a healthy active lifestyle. Gaelic is the language of our Highland landscapes and there is a natural synergy between the outdoor experience and its narration. We are delighted to support Spòrs Gàidhlig with this project”
Spòrs Gàidhlig co-ordinator, Donald Morris again: “We do see this project, important as it is, as a first step in what could be a much longer journey. Our vision is to eventually have an outdoor centre of some sort, with a strong Gaelic identity, delivering activities for Gaelic schools, Gaelic learners, and others with an interest in the language and outdoors.
“We are delighted to be taking these first steps, and look forward to building on this success.”