Widening Access For All

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye is taking advantage of new developments in widening access to education by delivering an innovative new distance-learning course for complete beginners of Gaelic. An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, or Access to Gaelic Course began as a pilot scheme in the winter of last year and is proving a great success.

Keith Lazarus came across the Atlantic to the UK 6 years ago, and has been living in Morar for the last 3 years. He saw the Access to Gaelic course as an opportunity to keep pace with his children who attend the local Gaelic primary school, "The really nice thing is that by knowing more of the language, I've gained a much better appreciation of how much the kids have learned. We're now at the point where I can discuss simple topics with them and I'm really enjoying it"

Charlotte Wright, Head of Community Development for Lochaber Limited has always had an interest in the Gaelic language and wanted to find out more, "Part of my job involves assisting projects which promote the Gaelic language and culture, so that gave me yet another reason to get a better understanding of Gaelic. The Access to Gaelic course appeared to be ideal, and it has certainly proved to be a very enjoyable course"

The course places greater emphasis on speaking and listening skills, and weekly conversation classes through teleconferencing give students the opportunity to chat to tutors and practice with others on the course. "I've really enjoyed the classes so far" said Keith "So long as I put the time in during the week, the weekly phone calls are a breeze and quite fun"

Course Co-ordinator Susie Hardy added, "As a Gaelic learner myself, initially via a correspondence course, I am aware of some of the difficulties facing distance learning students. It has been very rewarding for me to witness the progress of our students in this pilot year, particularly as they gain confidence through weekly teleconferences and monthly tutorials"

Students receive a certificate on successful completion of the course which qualifies them for entry to the Gaelic degree programmes at SMO and other UHI centres. Fiona Grant who manages the Lochalsh Learning Centre sees the long term benefits, "Since starting the course many people have asked me if it was a career choice. I had never thought of it that way until then, and I think now that it might open other doors"

Future developments include e-mail bulletin boards and online language support. "Support is always available" said Charlotte "either from Sabhal Mòr, from the local tutor, or from my colleagues on the course. So far, I'm practising on the dog, who is a native speaker!"

For further information on the Access to Gaelic Course contact:-

Susie Hardy
Distance Learning Course Co-ordinator
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Isle of Skye
IV44 8RQ

Tel: 01471 888 448
Fax: 01471 888 001
Email: sm00sh@groupwise.uhi.ac.uk

* Students on the Access to Gaelic Course are eligible to apply for Individual Learning Accounts from learndirect scotland. For further information see www.learndirectscotland.coma