Blended learning to support minority language acquisition in primary school pupils : lessons from the 'taking Gaelic home' study

Birnie, Ingeborg (2022) Blended learning to support minority language acquisition in primary school pupils : lessons from the 'taking Gaelic home' study. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 32 (2). 126 - 141. ISSN 1839-7387 (

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Gaelic is a minoritised indigenous language of Scotland, with its traditional heartland in the rural north-west of the country. The education system, and in particular Gaelic Medium Education (GME), has been recognised as an important strand of the language maintenance and support initiatives. The provision of GME has grown significantly since its inception in the early 1980s, it remains on the 'periphery' of the education system, with around 0.9% of all primary school pupils enrolled in GME settings. The ongoing language shift from Gaelic to English, a process that has been particularly pronounced in the traditional heartlands of the language, and the resulted decline in the use of Gaelic as the language of the home, the family, and the community, raises the question of how GME can contribute to a sustainable future for Gaelic. This article will discuss the findings of a small-scale mixed method practitioner enquiry study, which incorporated parental questionnaires, classroom observations, class-based language assessments and focus groups, to explore the use of blended learning approaches to enhance the development of language skills. The results of this study, conducted initially to evaluate the impact of the Covid-19 school closures on the linguistic proficiency of children in Primary 1 to Primary 3 enrolled in GME, show that pupils who were actively engaged in online learning activities showed a greater confidence and proficiency in their use of Gaelic compared to their peers who had not used these materials to support their learning, as well as increased involvement of caregivers in these Gaelic homework tasks. These findings allow for a re-imaging of approaches to homework in minority language immersion contexts to support the acquisition and use of the minority language beyond the classroom.