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Developments in Manx language teaching 24 May 2011

DEVELOPMENTS in the teaching of Manx in schools mean there are now far greater opportunities for young people wishing to learn the Island’s native language than there were when the subject was first offered.

The teaching of Manx in schools is led by the Department of Education and Children’s Manx Language Unit (MLU), headed by Rosemary Derbyshire and based at Unnid Ghaelgagh in Derby Road, Peel. Learning Manx

A new, two-year A level qualification has been developed, based on Irish Gaelic exams and replacing the previous, modular qualification, which was designed for distance learning. The qualification is now more comparable to other language A levels, important when it comes to university entry.

Students last year, for the first time, sat the new AS level, which marks the end of the first year of study. This summer an 18-year-old Ramsey Grammar School student who has been taught by Rob Teare, a member of the MLU, will sit the A2 exam.

Meanwhile, a Year 9 pupil aged 13 from Ballakermeen High School, who until he was 11 went to the Manx medium Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, at St John’s, will sit the AS level along with a number of adult learners who have been learning with James O’Meara, who is attached to the MLU.

This summer for the fourth time some ex-Bunscoill pupils aged 11 and 12 and now in Year 7 at secondary school will sit the Teisht Chadjin Ghaelgagh – the equivalent of a GCSE and based on the GCSE French qualification.

The exam will also be taken by older secondary students and by students at the Isle of Man College who have been taught by Dr Brian Stowell.

Manx is now established as a timetabled subject at Key Stage 3 in two secondary schools, Ballakermeen High School in Douglas and Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel. The uptake for this has increased year on year.

Former Bunscoill pupils who are in Key Stage 3 at the Peel secondary can also learn history, geography, music and IT through Manx.

Things have come a long way since Dr Stowell, the Island’s first Manx Language Officer, led the three-member team that started the teaching of Manx to a small number of primary and secondary pupils in 1992 as a result of a questionnaire to parents gauging demand.

‘The Manx Language Unit, which now has the equivalent of 4.5 teachers, works with pupils from Key Stage 2 right through to Key Stage 5 and works in 25 primary schools and all five secondary schools,’ explained Rosemary, the DEC’s Manx Language Officer.
‘More than 1,000 pupils learn Manx in primary schools and around 100 are studying it at secondary level.
‘We now have more part-time teachers, which gives us flexibility over timetabling. Six primary schools now have their own Manx specialists – existing classroom teachers who have been trained to teach Manx to children in Years 4 to 6,’ Rosemary continued.
‘Our teachers are constantly creating new materials and there are two textbooks in the pipeline at secondary level and a revised version of the traditional Key Stage 2 primary course, Bun Noa, in use this year,’ Rosemary continued. ‘There will soon be a Manx wiki as part of the DEC’s wiki – https://www2.sch.im/ – which means that our materials will be available to a much greater audience of teachers and learners.’

Paul Craine, Co-ordinating Adviser for 11-19 Education, is keen for the achievements of Rosemary and the MLU to be recognised. He said:

‘I think that the progress being made provides a remarkable testimony to the hard work of the MLU.
‘This peripatetic team leads the learning of pupils aged from seven to adult all over the Island, but there are no textbooks available for them to rely on. Their resources are nearly all written by team members. They are currently creating textbooks and have even written their own GCSE and A level specifications. The quality of their work has been recognised elsewhere and some of the materials they have produced have been translated into Jerriais and used with children in Jersey.’

Photo: Rob Teare, peripatetic Manx language teacher, with Year 9 students at Queen Elizabeth II High School who are enthusiastically learning Manx. From left: Peter Daniels, 14, Michael Kaighin, 14, Rhiannon Leece, 13, Sammie Caughey, 14, Clare Pickering, 13, and Beth Kinley, 14

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