2007 - 2021

The Age o Excellence

article-2415125-1BAF9556000005DC-472_640x378Pairt Twa o John Hodgart’s series on Scottish Culture in the curriculum.

Efter mony curricular revisions in the saicond hauf o the twentieth century, the brave new world o Curriculum for Excellence was revealed unto us in the third millennium, wi a haill new vision o teachin an learnin an new articles o faith. But nae wunner ma colleague George McG (a Computin wizard) decided to retire because he said he didnae hae a file in his napper labelled CfE an he didnae want his brain rewired at his age. George didnae need CfE to make his teaching excellent – it had ay been.

But whaur did Scottish culture an languages fit intae the new vision o things? The only positive statement (in fact the only statement) aboot Scottish culture in the Literacy an Language documents appears in a document cawed Principles and Practice whaur it actually spells oot that the study of our ‘rich literary and linguistic heritage’ should ‘suffuse the curriculum.’ Michty me, this souns gey like actually tellin teachers that Scottish culture shuid be at the very hert o things. Braw words an nae doot the word ‘suffuse’ souns gey wechty an ambeetious, but it seems that such braw words had clearly buin forgotten aw aboot by the time we get tae the fuitnote: ‘texts may include texts in Scots and Gaelic.’ A deliberate pit doon or jist a lack o jyned up thinkin? As the gaffer said tae the navvies, tak yer pick.

I hae ma doots aboot whether muckle ‘suffusing’ is gaun on if we only expect that it ‘may include texts in Scots and Gaelic’ an maist depressin o aw is that it is apparently ayont the power o Education Scotland and even the Scottish Government tae chynge ‘may’ to ‘should.’ Believe me, I’ve tried – an failt. Apparently no even wan single three letter word can be chynged in the holy writ o CfE, though it makes ye want tae yaise a few fower lettered anes!

However, since comin tae office in 2007, the SNP Government has definitely taen some important steps tae address, or at least talk aboot, oor cultural deficit, by commissionin reports on Scottish Literature, the Scots Language an Scottish Studies.

The first o these, The Goring Report (no boring) on Scottish Literature, published in February 2010, stressed that, ‘a thriving literary culture is an important element in the well-being of the nation,’ something that should have a central role in education, giving young people ‘an insight to their cultural heritage, allowing them to hear voices from their own background – or different – who convey Scotland’s distinctive history, outlook and values.’

The report made plenty o wicelik suggestions in different airts, such as the establishment o a Scottish Academy o Literature, setting up a national network o literary development officers, an a compulsory Scottish question at Higher. Yet as faur as I can tell, only the latter has been implementit sae far, an maist o the ither recommendations seem tae hae buin forgotten aboot, or pit back on the shelf tae gether stoor, especially if they wid cost money.

In the key area o writin and publishin in Scots, gettin financial support has aye buin lik squeezin bawbees oot o whinstane an it is still gey muckle hard, e.g. Itchy Coo is a national treisur but when their fundin endit a few year syne, it was never replaced, while the likes o Dr Jimmy Begg was driven jist aboot dementit tryin tae get a pickle o siller oot o Creative Scotland tae help publish The Man’s the Gowd an he wis left wi an empty beggin bowl lik plenty ither Scots scrievers.

Followin on fae this, The Ministerial Working Group on Scots Language, (chaired by Derrick McClure, November 2010) argued that ‘development in the area of education requires the most urgent action because the lack of resources and priority for Scots endangers all recent progress.’ It asked for the development o a Scots language policy tae be enshrined in an Act o Parliament, the appyntment o Scots language co-ordinators, an a permanent dedicated Scots language bureau tae meet the growin demand for training an resource development.

It even recommendit that regional dialect diversity should be integral tae education policy an stipulated that Scots language should form pairt o aw initial teacher education courses. Nae sign of that happening onie time suin, but at least fower Language Co-ordinators were appyntit on twa year contracts, but efter twa year. There’s noo only ane tae serve the haill country an it’s no clear when or if ithers will be appyntit. Again a helluva lot remains tae be done an it has tae be said that progress has buin lik that o a wabbit snail.

In mony weys complementary tae this was the Excellence in English Report (April 2011) that recommendit, among many ither things, that aw English teachers in Scotland shuid be encouraged tae study at least ane course in Scottish Literature as pairt o their first degree an that Scots should feature in teacher trainin at aw stages an again a mandatory Scottish lit question in the exams. Furthermair it recommendit that Local Authorities should encourage schools tae develop a Scots language policy, appynt Scots Language Co-ordinators an provide support through relevant CPD an access tae modern Scots resources.

It went on tae ootline how Scots could enrich linguistic development at every stage o the curriculum and how it can hae ‘a positive impact on children’s confidence in language skills as well as fostering citizenship.’ (equally true o Gaelic) A gey important an wicelik statement indeed! But once again faur owre many excellent recommendations have either yet to be implementit or hae buin ignored aw thegither.

Ane document that surprisingly did lead to significant chynges was The Open Letter o Januar 2011, supported by mair than a 100 scrievers an academics, that cawed for a couple o basic first steps: the setting up o a Scottish Literature and Language Bureau as weel as a mandatory Scottish lit question in the exams.

‘Successive Scottish Ministers and education policy makers have said that Scotland’s language and literature are important to learning and teaching in this country. … But each administration has failed to invest adequately in training and resources to support this and to ensure that this engagement actually takes place at every level. The result is that Scotland has a teaching profession often ill-equipped to teach Scotland’s young people about their own country’s language and literature’.

The letter’s demands were actually fairly modest – naithin really controversial – yet jings crivvens – The Herald splashed it as the lead story on the front page on 25th January an the response in the letters pages was gey supportive. But whit in the name o the wee man wid onybody fae ony ither European country think o us that these gey modest demands were actually somehow controversial front page news? They must’ve thocht we were no quite the full euro in mair weys than wan!


Comments (11)

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  1. Alf Baird says:

    “Scotland has a teaching profession often ill-equipped to teach Scotland’s young people about their own country’s language and literature’”

    This reality, which is arguably worse than stated, would be a national scandal and disgrace in any other nation. Real progress demands a ‘Scots Language (Scotland) Act’. It is now more than 10 years since the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, and even with a ‘nationalist’ government in ‘power’ during almost all of this time there is still no progress for the Scots language to be formally taught in our schools or universities never mind used in public documents or in broadcasting. In addition, as long as fowk wha dinna hae Scots leid at aw are appointet tae heid up maist o’ oor public institushuns (e.g. schuils, ceevil service depts, cooncils, quango’s etc), there will be no progress. Lets not be naïve about this: the unionist elites/establishment ken fine weel that ance Scots bairns an aw fowk are taucht their ain leid thay’ll shuirly want thair ain naition back. That is ultimately why we are deprived our culture/language. Oddly, the SNP leadership and elected members seem complicit in this perpetual cultural discrimination.

  2. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    A fine translation by Roderick MacDonald (Ruairidh MacDhòmhnaill)
    of Robert Burns’ song ‘John Anderson, my Jo’:


    ‘Ic Anndrais, ‘s tu mo ghràdh, Iain,
    Nuair chuir mi eòlas ort;
    Do ghruag bha mar am fitheach,
    ‘S gun chlais bha d’ aghaidh shnog;
    Ach nis nad cheann tha sgall, Iain,
    ‘S do chamagan tha bàn;
    Ach beannachd air do cheann mar shneachd,
    ‘Ic Anndrais, ‘s tu mo ghràdh.

    ‘Ic Anndrais, ‘s tu mo ghràdh, Iain,
    Còmhla gun d’streap sinn suas,
    Is iomadh latha sona, Iain,
    Chuir seachad air bheag ghruaim.
    Ach nis le crith nar ceum, Iain,
    Gun teàrn sinn làmh an làmh,
    Is caidlidh sinn le chèile, Iain,
    ‘Ic Anndrais, ‘s tu mo ghràdh.

    (CEUD ÒRAN LE RAIBEART BURNS, Crùisgean, 1990)

    1. Alf Baird says:

      And here it is as it wis written; tho it coud mibbe hae bin scrievin e’en mair Scots-like, ye ken:

      John Anderson, my jo, John,
      When we were first acquent;
      Your locks were like the raven,
      Your bonie brow was brent;
      But now your brow is beld, John,
      Your locks are like the snaw;
      But blessings on your frosty pow,
      John Anderson, my jo.

      John Anderson, my jo, John,
      We clamb the hill thegither;
      And mony a cantie day, John,
      We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
      Now we maun totter down, John,
      And hand in hand we’ll go,
      And sleep thegither at the foot,
      John Anderson, my jo.

    2. K. A. Mylchreest says:

      Glé mhath, ´ille! 🙂

  3. Tolmie says:

    You do our culture no favours with this dog’s breakfast of (poor) Scots spelling (“haill”?), “Oor Wullie”-level phonetic spelling of accent and dialect words, lapses into very “proper” English when your Scots fails, editorial inconsistency (“an” or “and”, “o” or “of”, for example) and inconsistent use of “-in” and “ing” for present participle and gerund verb forms.

    I look forward to accusations of English-centric grammar-Nazi culture denial.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      The basis of any culture is language, therefore, withoot Scots wuirds thare widna be ony Scottish cultur. In this sense it is you who “do our culture no favours”, assuming that is you are referring to Scottish culture.

      1. Ewan Macintyre says:

        “The basis of any culture is language, therefore, withoot Scots wuirds thare widna be ony Scottish cultur. ”

        Alf Baird – You are quite correct, but not in the way you (have been conditioned to) think.
        I find it helpful to read your so-called Scots prose in a Geordie accent. If truth be told – but it seldom is about this topic – “Scots” is a form of northern Geordie.
        Consider joining the Northumbrian Language Society. The Geordies know their history.
        “If Scotland gains independence we want Edinburgh back” was something said a few years ago by one of its contributors!


    2. Seumas says:

      A can see whit ye mean wi the inconsistent spellin but, haein read the govrenment records fae afore the 17t hunneryeir, A dinnae think that incosistency is acqually a problem.

      1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

        Gun fhios nach bi fonn air duine sam bith beagan sgrùdaidh a dhèanamh a thaobh cunbhalachd litreachaidh, seo againn shìos teacsa no dhà bho thràth san 17mh linn. Agus mar a thachras e tha fìor dhlùth bhuinteanas aig an stuth seo ris a’ chuspair ‘Cultar Albannach sa chlàr-oideachais’:

        For anyone vexed over consistency of spelling I proffer below a couple of early 17th century texts for possible perusal. And it just so happens that this material also has rather a direct bearing on the subject of ‘Scottish culture in the curriculum’:

        “THE QUHILK DAY it being understand that the ignorance and incivilitie of the saidis Ilis hes daylie incressit be the negligence of gaid educatioun and instructioun of the youth in the knowledge of God and good lettres: FOR remeid quhairof it is enactit that everie gentilman or yeaman within the saidis Ilandis or ony of thame having children maill or famell and being in goodis worth thriescoir ky, sall putt at the leist thair eldest sone or, having na childrene maill, thair eldest dochtir to the scuillis in the lawland and interteny and bring thame up thair quhill thay may be found able sufficientlie to speik, read and wryte Inglische.” (Statutes of Icolmkill,1609)(Collectanea de Rebus Albanicus pp119-20)

        “Thairfor that they shall send thair bairnis being past the age of nyne yeiris to the Scollis in the Lawlandis, to the effect thay may be instructit and trayned to wryte and reid and to speake Inglische; and that nane of thair bairnis sall be served air [heir] unto thame, nor acknawlegeit nor reid as tennentis to his Majestie unles thay can wryte, reid, and speik Inglische.” (Act of Privy Council of Scotland 1616)(Collectanea de Rebus Albanicus p 121)

  4. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    Trì leabhraichean Tintin sa Ghàidhlig –
    Three Tintin books in Gaelic –


  5. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    The Gruffalo sa Ghàidhlig (leabhar agus DVD) –


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