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Caithness News Bulletins August 2003

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Education Minister Peter Peacock Launched The Drive To Increase Gaelic Medium Teachers

A pioneering new programme for primary English-medium and Gaelic-medium teachers received official recognition on Friday August 15 with the formal launch of a new teacher training programme developed by the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with Highland Council. Peter Peacock MSP, Minister for Education and Young People launched the programme at Central Primary School, Inverness.

This innovative postgraduate programme is the first of its kind in Scotland. The unique programme will allow students from the Highland Council area the opportunity to study the same primary teacher training programme provided by the University of Aberdeen's Faculty of Education whilst working from home using a combination of distance learning techniques.

The new programme will have 26 students (five Gaelic-medium and 21 English-medium) taking part in classes via computer and video-conferencing equipment with teaching practice and practical sessions taking place in their own areas. University staff will regularly visit the students to help and assess progress and a student 'buddy' system will be developed for more informal discussion and advice. An integral part of the programme will be the use of local teachers and headteachers as Associate Tutors to assist in the delivery and support of students.

Education and Young People Minister, Peter Peacock said: "This course is an excellent example of how creative thinking has enabled Aberdeen University to bring initial teacher education directly to people who want to train as teachers. It will enable people from Highland to continue to live in their local community and work during their studies, as well as supporting our efforts to increase the number of Gaelic-medium teachers in Scottish primary schools.

"If Aberdeen University's course is a success, we will encourage the development of similar distance learning courses for other parts of Scotland. I would like to wish this first group of distance learning students every success in their training and in their future career. They have chosen a challenging but rewarding profession, but one for which I am sure this new course will provide an excellent grounding."

Professor C Duncan Rice, University of Aberdeen Principal, welcomed the introduction of the new programme: "I am delighted to see the University of Aberdeen pioneering this unique programme. Its timely introduction will overcome the geographical barrier that at present prevents many potential students in the region from entering primary teacher education. It is an important contribution that we can make to support education in the Highlands and widen opportunities for those living in remote communities."

The new programme is a joint initiative between the University and Highland Council and has been praised by Bruce Robertson, Director of  Education, Culture and Sport, Highland Council who said: "The Highland Council sees this as a ground breaking development, bringing Teacher Training for the first time to the Highlands. The response from applicants has been overwhelming and we are particularly pleased to see new routes into Gaelic Teaching where there is such a national and local shortfall. The University of Aberdeen is to be congratulated for working with us and delivering our need, and this course will, I am certain, pave the way for similar developments across Scotland."