BAIRNS where I teach in Banffshire are more likely to say that they are clarted wi dubs rather than covered in mud.

They talk about fit wye they’re gaan rather than which way they’re going. They’ll eat gulsh, not cheap sweeties and they’ll go ben e hoose rather than through the house, and ging feel rather than go crazy. They’ll see you i morn, not tomorrow.

A boy reached the top stair to say he was fair peuchart, while a lassie said her shoes were covered in yaavins (barley awn). A lad described the reek yoamin oot the back o his car (smoke belching). A cleaner mentioned a cassent cloth (faded) and one of the jannies said his mother was aye wyvin a maazie (always knitting a sweater). I learn from them every day.

But if, as a teacher, you don’t make bairns feel at ease with their language, you’ll hear silence or English, because most bairns will code switch between Scots and English to suit the situation.

Hence Scots is often called the hidden tongue.

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The problem is, if you tell bairns the way they speak is wrong, you’re basically telling them they are wrong. That damages self-esteem and has done for years. It’s criminal. The prejudice against Scots is real.

On the other hand, teachers across the land are noticing that when you give bairns a space to engage with their mither tongue, or learn about Scots, there are big positive effects. Bairns, who often say, “I can dee this!”, get a boost in self-esteem, and that affects their confidence, wellbeing and ambition in school and beyond. There’s also a boost in literacy.

Bairns who are Scots speakers tend to write more in Scots than English. There is an increasing amount of Scots resources out there, with Scots Hoose and the Scots Language Centre creating outstanding audiovisual resources for teachers, which are dead accessible to bairns.

Some bairns can better access education in Scots and can articulate better and be more creative in their mother tongue, learned in their family’s bosie. And, of course, bairns, when using their phones, are writing more Scots than ever before, texting and messaging each other in Scots. As they learn about their own culture and the history of their language, they picture the place of Scotland in the world and are more likely to relate to other cultures. We’ve also noticed that studying Scots has improved relationships between generations.

A girl told me she speaks to her granda more now – about Scots – and I have had fascinating conversations at parents’ evenings about different dialects of Scots with entire families. It helps link the school with the community.

So, since 2013, I have been trying, at my school, to make Scots a normal school subject and to make Scots a normal language of the classroom. I don’t want studying Scots to be special or different or a novelty, but just to be a normal part of the curriculum on offer and, maybe more importantly, to be a subject that teachers are equipped to deliver.

When the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) brought out the Scots Language Award in 2013, we began the course as a senior elective and a total of seven gallus loons an quines took the plunge. Numbers built gradually and we are now achieving classes of 30 bairns.

The award consists of two units, firstly the History and Development of Scots. Pupils explore the factors influencing Scots from early days to the present, such as trade with the low countries, bringing names such as Fleming, Lindsay, Douglas, Innes, Bremner and words like howf, gowf, dowp and loun.

The second part of the course is Understanding and Communicating in Scots. We study texts and create in Scots. A huge appeal of the award is its flexibility, tailored to pupil interests, and the dialects of Scots used in your community. Many subjects could deliver the award, whether in Humanities, Languages, English departments, Business, Music, Drama or Additional Support and the cross-curricular possibilities are endless.

The big game-changer came when the school offered third-year pupils the mandatory language choice of French or Scots. Pupils can also choose another language, too. This year, 85 pupils chose Scots, and these bairns will be able to progress on to the senior class. So, 114 pupils have chosen Scots overall this year.

A collaborative group of teachers from different subjects in the school is piloting an Open University Scots language teacher training course, which will appear on their General Teaching Council professional record.

Health and wellbeing are at the centre of all things at school nowadays, especially after the pandemic, and it seems to me that studying Scots is a brilliant way to get validation, get confident and to thrive. A busy curriculum? Mak it busy wi Scots!

Dr Jamie Fairburn is Head of Humanities at Banff Academy. He teaches Geography, Scots Language and Travel and Tourism. He was awarded Scots Champion of the Year at the Scots Language Awards in 2022

The consultation on the Scottish Languages Bill closes tomorrow