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Boost for Scots language in schools

The teachin o oor mither tongue tae bairns in schuil is faur ben, but mony dominies want tae ken the difference atween Scots and slang.

For those requiring a translation, the above sentence means the teaching of Scots to schoolchildren is increasingly popular, but many teachers are still unsure of the difference between the language and slang.

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As a result, a new website will be launched today to help school staff get to grips with the Scots language.

The online resource, developed by curriculum body Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), will provide information on the history of Scots, provide examples of texts and have tips on grammar and spelling as well as video and audio recordings of Scots being spoken.

It will also highlight the fact that many words considered slang, such as “couldnae”, “mingin”, and “mair”, are proper words, whereas “napper” is a slang word for “heid”.

Fiona Norris, literacy team leader at LTS, said the Knowledge of Language website was a result of a growing demand from school staff over the past five years.

During that time, Scots has become a recognised part of the new Curriculum for Excellence, which calls on schools to support children in maintaining their own first language, and the Scottish Government has also made a commitment to increasing awareness of Scots language, literature and song.

However, there are still negative attitudes towards Scots, with some arguing it is a dialect rather than a language and others believing it to be a slang form of English.

In January, an official survey found that nearly two-thirds of the Scottish public do not believe that Scots is a real language.

“Schools across Scotland are beginning to embrace Scots and to use it more and more in their lessons, but many still feel uneasy about their own understanding of the way the language works,” said Ms Norris.

“Teachers are reporting that they use more Scots in class throughout the year, not just around Burns Day, and the materials on the website have been designed to help them build their knowledge and confidence.”

Matthew Fitt, who helps run the Itchy Coo publishing company, which publishes Scots versions of classic novels and children’s stories, is a strong supporter of the use of Scots in schools.

“This is a fantastic resource and builds on the growing popularity of the Scots language,” he said. “Since the 1872 Education Act, Scots has been ignored in schools at an enormous cost to Scotland’s culture.

“For children to be told the natural way they speak is wrong negates a very important part of the development of the child and the recent growth of Scots has had a very positive impact.”

Elaine Milne, a P7 teacher at Netherlee Primary School in East Renfrewshire, agrees.

She also said children knew exactly when to use Scots and English and did not confuse the two.

The Knowledge of Language website will also contain an ­English grammar resource for teachers as a result of the new drive to embed literacy across the curriculum.

 

  CASE STUDY

 

Children’s education transformed, says heid

 

In the past three years, the growing use of Scots in one Scottish primary school has helped transform the education of children who are traditionally hard to engage.

Nearly 30% of children at Nethermains Primary School in Denny, near Falkirk, are on free school meals -- a key indicator of poverty -- twice the Scottish average.

Children from such backgrounds can often struggle at school because of the difficulties they are dealing with at home.

However, the introduction of Scots three years ago by headteacher Mary Connelly has seen a radical change in the attitudes of some pupils.

“At the time, the class was predominantly made up of boys and they were not engaging with reading at all,” she said. “We introduced Scots books and encouraged the use of Scots and a lot of these boys became hooked on reading.

“It is a language they speak at home and are comfortable with and to allow them to use it at school has sparked their enthusiasm and had a tremendous impact on their confidence.”

Now, Scots is an integral part of school life, with even school signs written in Scots, such as “Heidie” outside the headteacher’s office and “Cludgie” next to the toilets.

“The children know when to use Scots and when to use English, but the use of Scots has really helped,” said Mrs Connelly.

 

 

The website is www.ltscotland.org.uk/knowledgeoflanguage

For further information, contact Learning and Teaching Scotland.

  Tae hae or no tae hae

 

FOR: Derrick McClure

 

There can be no argument against developing Scots in school, because so many children across Scotland speak it and it is part of their culture.

The various forms of Scots spoken in different areas should all be encouraged, since they are seen as very much part of local and national identity.

Fortunately, the ridiculous idea that Scots is bad English and has to be knocked out of pupils has now been discredited, although there are still those who do not believe that Scots should have an accepted place in schools.

The argument over whether Scots is a language or a dialect is not a simple one, but Scots, however it is classified, is a living native speech form and, from the point of view of human rights, it should be given that recognition.

Becoming literate in English is indispensable, but it should never be at the expense of Scots.

 

Derrick McClure is honorary senior lecturer at Aberdeen University’s school of language and literature

 

AGAINST: Ted Brocklebank

 

I am a great supporter of the Scots tongue and a great supporter of the variety of dialects ranging from Nordic and Doric to Lallands.

However, these, to me, are dialects of the Scots tongue, which I believe itself is a dialect of English. I am a keen supporter of the richness of expression of Scots and a supporter of poetry written in the Scots tongue and I am all for children to learn more about it. I just don’t see it as a language.

It is significant that, in Europe, minority languages that have been put forward for official recognition are Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and the Welsh language. Funding does not come forward for Scots or Ulster Scots.

We are at a time when basic English is not as well understood as it should be. If there are resources available they should be spent on strengthening our understanding of basic English.

 

Ted Brocklebank is Scottish Conservative Party spokesman on culture

 

 

 

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