This weekend’s Annual General Meeting of Fèisean nan Gàidheal, being held in Fort William on Friday and Saturday, will hear that the organisation’s work in 2011-12 engaged over 40,000 people with nearly 6,000 Fèis participants, more than 3,000 benefiting from traditional music tuition in schools and nearly 8,000 attending Cèilidh Trail performances throughout the Highlands and Argyll during the summer of 2011.
Although its main remit is to support the work of local Fèisean, or festivals, Fèisean nan Gàidheal has been involved for several years in delivering a range of arts and Gaelic language based education and community services. The umbrella organistion, which now supports activities among 44 separate Fèisean, is to extend its reach by offering new services.
The organisation will launch Fèisgoil at its Annual Conference – a new service that will pull together various strands of education and community work. Fèisean nan Gàidheal plans to expand its work in these areas to include a new Gaelic teaching service. Fèisgoil will offer local authorities a valuable service that could help deliver non-certificated Gaelic teaching and areas of the Curriculum for Excellence relating to Expressive Arts, Health & Well-being and Literacy & Gàidhlig. The service could also assist local authorities and public bodies deliver commitments in their Gaelic Language Plans.
Arthur Cormack, Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Chief Executive, said: “Fèisgoil is a development of a new approach to managing the various issues which emerge from time to time in Scottish schools where there might be little or no experience of dealing with Gaelic. We believe Fèisean nan Gàidheal could offer expertise to local authorities as they embrace opportunities offered by the Curriculum for Excellence to support Gaelic medium education. There are also aspects of Scottish Studies which we feel might benefit from our knowledge and skills base. The Scottish Government’s aspirations to give Scottish children the opportunity to learn three languages is a great step forward and we believe that we are ideally placed to offer local authorities help in providing the resources and skills required to make the initiative work in relation to Gaelic.”
Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Chair, Catriona MacIntyre, added: “We all know that there are some areas where local authorities are challenged in terms of teacher supply and training which means they cannot always meet parental aspirations. Fèisean nan Gàidheal can help address these issues in collaboration with the authorities whilst contributing in the wider sense to the campaign to increase the number of people learning Gaelic throughout Scotland. School children could increase their Gaelic awareness at a number of levels and then make appropriate choices as they go forward and the changes in the curriculum offer them new opportunities.”
The main areas that Fèisgoil could assist with include Creative Scotland’s new Youth Arts Strategy and Talent Development investment; expansion in Gaelic education required at all levels, supporting Gaelic medium education and strengthening areas for improvement identified in the 2011 HMIe report Gaelic Education: Building on the successes, addressing the barriers; expansion in the use of Gaelic at community level through the organisation of Gaelic medium activities and events as part of Iomairtean Gàidhlig and independently of them and the Curriculum for Excellence requirement for young people to experience Scottish culture.
Arthur Cormack concluded: “While the use of non GTC-registered teachers in schools was not encouraged in the past, Curriculum for Excellence encourages the engagement of people from communities and outwith schools to enhance the educational experience for young people. The Youth Music Initiative has proved that good quality educational outcomes can be achieved by cooperation between classroom teachers and tutors delivering specific programmes of work that enhance pupils’ experiences. One of the main advantages of the Fèisgoil service is that local authorities could deliver Gaelic classes in a very cost-effective manner. They would not, for example, have to train their own teachers with the associated costs of obtaining cover for them while they undergo training. Fèisgoil tutors will be trained to the same standard as classroom teachers are to deliver GLPS. Funding available for GLPS could, therefore, be used entirely for delivery and, since the classroom teachers would have to be present during lessons, they could learn along with the pupils and continue with some Gaelic after a series of Fèisgoil classes ends.”
Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Annual Report for 2011-12 will be published at its AGM on Friday September 21. It details how the organisation engaged with around 43,000 people during 2011-12; 5,922 young people took part in Fèisean; 3,191 pupils benefitted from traditional music tuition through the Youth Music Initiative delivered by Fèisean in each locality; 2,122 took part in Gaelic drama activities; 16,798 attended the 2011 Blas festival; 7,920 people attended Cèilidh Trail performances throughout the Highlands during the summer of 2011; 44 Fèisean were members of the umbrella organization; £299,811 was granted by Fèisean nan Gàidheal to local Fèisean; and FnG’s total expenditure was £1,408,055.