A MOTION has been tabled in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate the popular Gaelic4Parents website on its 10th anniversary.
Launched at the Royal National Mod in Dunoon in 2006, the website provides key support for families involved in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) and is run by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta Na Gàidhlig.
Angus MacDonald, MSP for Falkirk East and member of the Parliamentary Cross-party group on Gaelic, tabled the motion and said the website provided “an invaluable service to parents and children being taught Gaelic through GME throughout Scotland”.
He also wished “continued success for this fun-filled resource” to the team at Gaelic4Parents and umbrella organisation Stòrlann.
Gaelic4Parents offers a wide range of resources and support to all children and parents with an interest or involvement in Gaelic education but offers vital help, in particular, to those parents who don’t have any Gaelic themselves.
One of its main attractions is the collection of 232 audio books including all the Storyworlds books which get sent home from school for children to read for homework.
There are titles from other ranges too, such as the Gaelic Bookbug scheme, and co-edition ‘hits’, such as Acair’s An Gruffalo.
The other key feature of the website is the official Homework Help section.
This service, supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, is an online chat system where parents can get direct help from a teacher.
It operates during the school term, from Monday to Thursday between 5pm and 7pm, and is manned by two online support workers: Inge Birnie in Aberlour and Anne Marie Henderson in Lewis. It works as a live chat where parents can simply click on the button to ask for help.
There’s more to Gaelic4Parents.com than just homework help, though. It caters for the early years (0 to 3) up to P7 and features a variety of ways children can learn Gaelic while having fun.
There are songs, pictures to print off and colour in, and games to play, plus the hosting of the Guthan Beaga (Little Voices) section, which teaches parents easy phrases to use with toddlers.
An App is available for Guthan Beaga for iOS and Android, while Gaelic4Parents can be found on Facebook and Twitter @gaelic4parents.
The Facebook page has become a mini community in its own right, with several thousand followers and weekly word list posts that regularly go viral.
The latest word list is on St Andrew’s Day and previously popular ones included Halloween and International Women’s Day, which received around 41,000 and 37,000 views respectively.
Launched in 2010, Gaelic4Parents on Facebook has an average weekly reach of 40,000, and also provides its own informal homework support in that Stòrlann staff who run it will try to answer questions if parents are stuck outwith the live chat time for Homework Help.
It’s all very different from the kind of support that was available in the past. Sarah MacEachan, Project Officer for Stòrlann, has worked on Gaelic4Parents since its inception when the original brief to reproduce a local authority booklet of Gaelic words with English translations was extended to the format of a website.
Sarah said: “Websites are so commonplace now but back in 2006 they were still a relatively new thing. There wasn’t very much ‘online’. Websites were a page with a phone number at the bottom.”
Back then, the website was little more than the Listen and Sing and Listen and Speak sections, plus Guthan Beaga and some pages and bookplates to print off and colour in.
The big step forward came after a few years when Heinemann publishers gave permission for the Storyworlds audio books. “From that point, it pretty much exploded,” said Sarah.
Homework Help followed four years ago and is “without question one of the most useful and highly regarded features that we have on the website.”
Gaelic4Parents is split into sections for different age ranges, with Nip the (Collie) Dog introduced in the early days as the mascot for children aged three to five, while Maoilios (Miles) the Monkey followed a few years later. Maoilios represents the children in primary classes one to four.
Nip and Maoilios are more than happy to come out to events —such as the 10th birthday celebrations held for Gaelic4Parents at the Royal National Mod in Stornoway in October.
Lewis mum Megan Macdonald is among those who decided to put her children into Gaelic Medium Education, despite having no Gaelic herself, because she was reassured by the kind of support offered by Gaelic4Parents.
Megan, who lives just outside Stornoway and is originally from New Zealand, said: “I couldn’t put the girls in Gaelic if it wasn’t for this. It would be impossible because I have no words!
“It’s just brilliant, especially by the time they get to P3 because their words are a wee bit more difficult.”
Megan and husband Donald, who also has no Gaelic, thought seriously about whether they would be able to support Neeve, now seven, and Marley, six, in bilingual education.
“It wasn’t a decision we took lightly,” she said. “I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. I thought, ‘Can I manage? Will I be able to do their homework?’”
Megan, who can speak Spanish, was impressed by the researched benefits of bilingual education and finally persuaded when she learned of the help available.
Now it is routine for Megan and the girls, plus one-year-old brother Samuel, to read their homework books at the computer and then play the Gaelic4Parents version.
“I try and get the girls to read the stories themselves and then we listen to it properly.”
Megan has also used the Homework Help live chat — “I typed in a request for translation help and got a reply straight away” — and is reassured about the progress her girls are making. “It’s nice to to have the teachers say, ‘her Gaelic is really, really good’”.
She said: “I find it interesting when I hear people say ‘I can’t put him into Gaelic because I can’t speak it’ because there’s a lot of support. I honestly couldn’t have done it without Gaelic4Parents. I just wouldn’t have been able to entertain it. Sometimes you get a bit jittery about it — but the feedback is that they’re doing alright.”
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