Last week we met with Simon Hall – one of four Scots Language co-ordinators at Education Scotland whose remit covers Highland Council. He wrote the following piece about his time in Highland schools:
“A trip across the Pentland Firth to Caithness is always an exciting prospect, and it was really great to be in the northern county during Book Week Scotland to talk to local teachers and representatives from Highland Council about current developments in Scots Language education.
I received a lovely, friendly welcome at the linked primaries of Castletown and Canisbay, where we read ‘The Gruffalo’ in Scots translation. One or two of the bairns here knew some of the Scots vocabulary already, with one lass telling me her mum says her dad has ‘muckle hands’! The learners hadn’t heard the word ‘tod’ for fox before, but some of them did know about a place in Caithness called Todholes. I was learning, too, and picked up a Caithness word – ‘foosome’ – while in Castletown, as well as discovering that the word ‘peedie’, which I had thought was exclusive to Orkney, is also used in Canisbay and the surrounding north coast area.
A question that cropped up once or twice was ‘Is Caithness dialect really Scots language?’ The answer is yes, it certainly is a variety of Scots, and as such it is ideal for exploring in local schools. Primaries from as far afield as Shetland and South Ayrshire are beginning to consider the possibility of teaching Scots as the L3 within the government’s new 1+2 Languages framework.
Next stop was Thurso High, where English teacher Julie Adams showed me a fantastic resource she has been using: a ten volume Scots Dictionary. Ms Adams’ S1 pupils were enjoying exploring the dictionary, and were amazed to discover that it has over 60,000 entries. I had a long and interesting discussion with Craig Omand, D.H.T. at Thurso High, about Caithness language and culture, and about the new S.Q.A. Scots Language Award http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/70056.html.
I do hope that Highland secondary schools will give the Scots Language Award serious consideration: it offers a good opportunity to provide additional breadth of learning in the Senior Phase, as well as tapping fruitfully into the local culture of our school communities. The Award provides natural opportunities for interdisciplinary learning involving English, Music, Drama or Social Studies. Mr Omand gave me another Caithness word before I left – ‘raxter’. I’ve had a look at the new online Dictionary of the Scots Language to find out exactly what this one means: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/.
My Friday visits were in Wick, where I had lovely fish and chips and a tour of Pulteneytown Academy Primary with head teacher Miss Wark. I felt at home here, particularly seeing The Simpsons’ Groundskeeper Willie on the wall declaring ‘I’m fae Orkney!’ Miss Wark tells me that pupils at the new Newton Park school will say they are going ‘up til ae street’ in their new school building – I love these Caithness prepositions, and the unique definite article ‘ae’! Thanks finally to Miss MacArthur at Wick High School for taking a little time out on a busy Friday afternoon to hear about the Scots Language Award, and thank you to all of the teachers who were so friendly during my two days in Caithness.
If Highland practitioners would like to get in touch with me with any questions or comments regarding any of the above, or Scots language education in general, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .”
We look forward to working with Simon over the coming months. In the meantime, join the Scots Blether on Education Scotland to find out more about Scots Language: