Monday, 8 February 2010

Loch Ness Monster

Whilst visiting a school a pupil asked me if there really was a monster in Loch Ness. I was able to use the memo facility on my iphone to record this discussion and also show him a photograph of Loch Ness. Not a fantastic recording but a spontaneous example of how we were able to immediately interact with our hosts. You can hear/download the audio file by clicking on title.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Quaich

During our visit we were very fortunate to have Miren Jule Arzurza from the Unibersitate eta Ikerketa Saila as our host. She had planned a full programme with a good balance of activities which helped us to find answers to our many questions. Jule was with us from early morning until we returned late in the evening to our hotel. Nothing was too much trouble for her and not only was she a fount of knowledge and extremely professional but she brought with her a real warmth and friendliness into the group. This was very much appreciated by all.

As a group we thank you Jule and hope that The Quaich will bring with it fond memories of the time you shared with us. Your input has been warmly welcomed and valued. We hope that the links made will continue in the future.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Eskola 2.0

Although in Euskara this presentation gives a background to The Escola 2.0 project for those interested in this aspect of educational development. You can follow through the posting below in English if you use the translation button in the toolbar.

Eskola 2.0

This programme is similar to what was our NGfL project with very similar objectives. The Schools Program is a radical leap in the introduction of new technologies of information and communication in the educational space. The incorporation of Euskadi to this program, decided by the Governing Council on 5 June 2009, is reflected in the financial year 2010 with the complete digitization of classrooms that teach the third cycle of primary education, teacher training on free software and new methodologies and multimedia content development. The schools visited were at different stages of the implementation.

Artigal Method of Language Teaching - Based on Story Telling - Navarre Region

This is a short paper referred to when we were visiting the Teacher Training Centre. Click on title to link. You may also wish to explore the rest of this site regarding MBE (Mainstream Bilingual Education) including a strategy guide for the MBE classroom.

The Spanish case studies focus on three schools in Navarre, Northern Spain where the extremely low birth-rate and consequent falling pupil intake has led schools to use their bilingual programmes as a means of making their curriculum more attractive to parents, pupils and local government alike.

The three schools chosen have been selected for the following reasons:

The increasing importance of teaching in the Basque language
The importance of French due to geographical location and cultural tradition
The huge demand for English courses due to the prestige value attached English a world language
The studies examine different models of bilingual teaching in both private and state schools at primary and secondary level.

Primary Group Focus - Catherine, Christine, Kay-Marie & Jessie

· Are immersion methodologies applied within the early years / primary setting and what is the immersion policy for the area?

· Early Years provision – when can children begin learning through their regional language?

Children are entitled to pre school education from 0-6.
100% of 3 year olds are in state education and a high percentage of 2 year olds are also in education.
Low birth rate is possibly due to lack of funding available to families.
The focus is on learning orally.
In a school with 60 children there were 6.5 teachers.

· If immersion is applied, when are pupils introduced to Spanish / other European languages?

All pupils in the D model are fully immersed in Basque from age 0; English is introduced at the age of 4. Spanish is introduced at the age of 7 because Spanish is a main language and most of the children will already be familiar with it. French is introduced at the age of 12 and they do 2 hours per week.
When children are introduced in English they learn through subject projects and initially shorter sessions.

· Are all subjects in the primary school taught through Euskara or is there a bilingual approach to learning in the upper primary?

There is a bilingual approach throughout the primary. There will always be a bilingual or trilingual approach no matter what model parents choose for their children. The Law of normalisation 1982 “ all citizens have the right to know and use Basque and Spanish. 1993 Law stated pupils must achieve genuine competences in both languages.

· CPD opportunities for teachers on immersion language learning and teaching development

Teachers can choose to learn Basque and leave their teaching job and be taught in total immersion for 3 years. The teachers are on full pay while they are learning the language. There is a top up course available for teachers in order to brush up on their Basque language and again supply teachers will be put in their school and the teacher will be on full pay whilst learning. The course is personal choice the head of the establishment cannot force a teacher to do the course, it can only be recommended.

· How long has the present strategy/policy for Immersion Education been implemented?
· Has it changed little / radically over the years and if so how?

30 years was the first time the Basque language began to be developed in schools. 1994 they introduced multilingual provision. The reason for this was firstly was the levels of English were not good, competence in English / foreign language was poor. Language and identity issues were connected to political issues and it was not a healthy situation. The reason for this was also to use language as a learning tool and move the political debate from schools.

· How is the curriculum devised and are there differences across schools/ specific to individual schools? (Including Special needs / support for learning)

There is a standard curriculum that is taught across all school but it is up to each individual school how the curriculum is delivered. Language should not be competed against each other.

· Is there external evaluation as well as whole school/individual teacher self-evaluation? How is evidence relating to performance /attainment collated? How does this inform future council strategy?

As a cultural group they have just started to look at the evaluation process. There is a kind of evaluation for a child that allows them to progress to the nect level but results are not publicised. They don’t have an inspector system they are more like support and challenge advisors.


Things that weren’t working for them – the children see Basque as only a school language as much as they show commitment to the language the minute they are out of school they speak the language that is most used – Spanish.

Promoting the D model is not necessary, as there seems to be a biased attitude towards the D model.

Very little research done or evaluation been done. In the last 2 years they have started evaluating the 4th year of primary and the 2nd year of primary.

Aurkezpen Aeskozia

Sharing the work of this Model D Immersion Primary School(ages 6 months -12 years)

A brief programme summary

We had a very packed 3 day programme during our visit which allowed us to explore the Basque Education system as well as see a quite stunningly beautiful part of the world and learn a little of the culture. All presentations are available on the blog. We have literally hundreds/thousands of photographs and lots of children in the schools which for obvious reasons cannot be posted here.

We visited:
  1. The Government centre in Lakua, Vitoria where we had a presentation from the Director of Educational Innovation, Luisa Garcia Gurrutxaga and Mikel Zalbide, Head of the Basque Service within the Educational Innovation Directorate. Whilst a formal presentation had been prepared Luisa established an ethos which encouraged us to ask questions and engaged us in discussion throughout the morning. We learned a huge amount from this session and it gave us a firm foundation on which to continue our learning. Equally important the warmth of our welcome helped the group come together and focus on the key aspects of our visit.
  2. Aizarnazabal Primary, a smaller rural school with composite classes
  3. Eguzkibegi Ikastola, a Model D secondary school in Galdakao
  4. Zuhaizti Primary School, San Sebastiana model D (total immersion) children age 6 months to 12 years
  5. Aitor Ikascola Primary, a Model D as above in San Sebastian
  6. A Teacher Training Centre, Artazu Goiko in Bilbao - IRALI programme
  7. Barnetegi of Segura - a "hostel" centre where children can spend a week totally immersed in learning Euskara, this is at no cost to the children's families. Here we participated in a delightful activity with the children where group members showed their individual artistic talents....there was much noise and laughter.
In addition we also visited:
  • The Church in Getaria - a beautiful 14thC Church
  • A Tourist Centre in Getaria where we learned about El Cano, the first man to sail around the world
  • The Txakoli Wine Cellar - a wine unique to the area of Gateria (only 9 hectares)
  • The Zerain Mines where Iron Ore was extracted and sent to Scotland as well as other parts of the world - a new team uniform was introduced here - see pics!
  • Dinner in a Sagardotegi in Astigarraga, a traditional Cider House named Petritegi. This was a totally unique experience for most of us.
Throughout our visit we were accompanied by Miren Jule Azurza from Unibertsitate eta Ikerketa Saila who had arranged the whole programme and was with us from early morning till we returned to the hotel late in the evening. She was most professional giving us all the necessary background as we travelled across the region but she also gave us so much more about the culture, history and the life of the peoples of the area in such a delightful friendly manner which endeared her to the whole group.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Differences across schools and areas?

Continuation of Curriculum question: Are there differences across different schools and different areas?

There are considerable differences across schools and provinces. Some schools teach three languages, others teach four. It was not clear, other than languages and Environmental Studies projects, through interdisciplinary learning and subject learning what would be the balance of the curriculum.

EVALUATION Quality of Education

This was done through self-evaluation; inspectorate who made regular, unannounced visits; each teacher had to attain a benchmark in Euskara at PL2 (Level C1 European Language Register); children have internal exams at 10 and 14 years of age with an evaluation of core communication skills in Euskara at 4 years old. The Baccalaureate is offered at 18 years old.


Ulibarri Program: set up by the Berritsgunea. As part of this wide-ranging program there are after-school clubs run by parents; Barnategi is a total immersion experience, run for one full week during school time at one of a number of hostel-type accommodations across the provinces.
Total beginners courses are run for whole families for a week of immersion in Euskara; Children can stay with Basque speaking families and this is paid for by the Government; all schools take part in community festivals and carnivals.

We were unable to clarify the community’s role within the school although we know that Euskara speaking parents come in regularly to talk about their professions and when a doctor or a chef is needed they can be brought in. Some schools are also loaned out to community groups free of charge. Bertulidos (bards old and new) come into the school to teach songs, poems and drama.

Màiri Bheag, Seonaidh is Siùsiadh

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Berritzegunes - Teacher Support Centres

We visited the teacher training centre in Galdakao, one of a number across The Basque area.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Strategic Focus group

Resources – books, CDRoms, multimedia

· Resources appear to be plentiful and easily accessible, are well organised and teachers are also able to develop specifics to meet individual / small group needs. Teachers appeared to be happy with the level of available materials.

· A range of commercially produced materials are available in Euskara. There is one daily Basque newspaper which is considered to be a useful resource. Need to follow up use of TV Media in schools.

· Huge financial investment to support teachers producing additional materials. The Department of Education facilitates staff release for time periods of up to three months.

· Teachers are directed from the centre regarding the use of curriculum materials.

· Strategic Plan for “Eskola 2.0” to move forwards the use of technologies embedded in learning and teaching. Infrastructures not yet in place but teachers spoken to were keen to participate. Not too dissimilar in approaches to what was our NGfL programme. The technologies themselves have moved on but the principles of implementation are similar.

· There were no “gripes” from teachers regarding any inadequacy of resources.

The IRALE Programme

· IRALE program was established to enable teachers to meet the competences of the European Framework.

· A huge plus in the Basque education system is that teachers, who wish to teach in Basque, are enabled to participate in an intensive language learning programme for up to 3 years – time out of the classroom with full pay. There is a sufficiently large pool of supply staff with the requisite qualifications for teaching the Basque Language as well as working in Basque Immersion.

· The Government have now addressed the teacher deficit, from 5% moving to 85% of teachers fully qualified to teach the language or in Basque immersion…..This success has taken 30 years to reach this position. There is a clear view that that there is no “Quick Fix”. Focus will now be on top-up/refresher courses of three month duration for the new generation of Basque teachers and teachers relocating from non-Basque speaking principalities.

· Good links with other minority languages through Mercator, Comenius, Da Vinci funded projects, Catalan, Galician languages. Links also with CAER group in United Kingdom.

· No need to actively recruit teachers as IRALE programme guarantees they have the supply of teachers they require for Basque teaching. Teachers are appointed to a post in a school and this post is their post for as long as they wish to remain in the school. There is little or no movement of teachers between and amongst schools. Teachers are considered to be civil servants.

· There are continuous opportunities for teachers to improve their skills and language competence. However given that there is no promoted structure within Basque schools, the Headteacher cannot insist on a teacher, with a language deficit, participating in the training courses. Inspectors and the Directorate appear to have control over the school system and ensure that BAC curriculum is applied.


· An interesting difference to our own system is the model of a “Rotating Headteacher” elected by the teachers in the school. Elections take place every 3 years but may occur annually. Interested in exploring this further to ascertain impact of this model in a number of areas.

Professional Development Opportunities

· Whilst literacy skills are addressed in the three month refresher courses, in addition all teachers can have a sabbatical every five years in which they can have a year’s absence from school on 85% salary. Salary is spread over the five year period to facilitate this sabbatical.


· Parents are involved to a great extent in the co-operative school that was visited in Bilbao. The active participation /role of parents in the other school visited appeared fairly limited. However, administrators equated parental involvement with the increasing number of parents choosing Basque education for their children. The majority of the parents either have Basque themselves or are very supportive of this education system.

· There are family learning opportunities available for parents wishing to learn Basque with their children. There are summer schools for parents and children and there is real feeling of parental ownership of their children’s learning.

Strategy and Policy

· Policy development is a top down model with the administration making final decisions on the shape of the curriculum and policy development. Administration and elected members make decisions on education policy and practice.

· There is limited research information unique to Basque education system, however explicit reference was made to Fishman and Colin Baker research recommendations and how they might apply them to their situation.

· Assessment of pupils aged 10 years and 14 years will be introduced in 2010. Data will not be analysed on a school basis but rather on a principality wide basis. ICT software is in place to enable the administration to record data. It appears that the collation of the data will be extremely labour intensive with Inspectors having to visit their respective schools to pose the relevant questions required to be answered and recorded. This may take up to five visits to individual schools to source requisite information. There also appears to be an emphasis on quantitative rather than qualitative evaluations.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Secondary Group's Thoughts, Mary, Catriona, Rupachitta, Iain

Are there school language plans to support the needs of all learners? Do you have diversity of pupil competencies? How is the curriculum devised / specific needs / Support for Learning?

The school community chooses Model A, B or D. This is a School Language Plan from the B.A.C. All pupils in the school will follow this plan. Pupils will not be evaluated for a full year, and then assessed. There is a personal Learning Plan for all Learners and extra help is given if needed. There are 5 specialist attached to each Berritzegune, including Speech Therapists. Rural schools not as affected by immigrants, as are the towns but pupils seem to progress well due to parental choice, commitment and level of Basque spoken locally.

How is evidence related to performance / attainment collated?

Using an adaptation of Colin Baker’s “Bilingual Education and Education and Bilingualism” format adapted for Basque language learning by Mikel Zalbide, each school is assessed. Schools can use this information for themselves and compare their progress with other schools in the socio-linguistic area is B.A.C on a scale of 1-5. There are no External exams for pupils up to the end of compulsory education (age 16). Continuous Assessment of schoolwork leads to school certificates.

Are there links with Scottish schools?

There are no existing links with Scottish schools at present but the schools are keen to establish them and have given our group an email contact address in order to develop these links in the near future.

Eskola and Ikastola

We have learned that in the Basque Country there are three linguistic models within the Eskola (state schools): A - in Spanish with Basque and English as subjects; B - with Spanish and Basque given equal status and English taught as a subject; D - Immersion in Basque with Spanish and English being taught as a subject.

There are also Ikastola schools. This type of school has evolved from the time when Euskara was outlawed under Franco´s dictatorship. Children were taught in any available accommodation, i.e. flats and houses, often by unqualified teachers. They operate as independent co-operatives within a federation of other Ikastolas, including within the French Basque community. Although Euskara is allowed as a medium of instruction here, the final exams have to be taken in French.

We also learned about staff-pupil ratios in the Eskola. These ratios can vary according to age and geographical area but are usually 1 teacher to 8 pupils at age 0-2. At age 2 the ratio is 1:18, at ages 3-5 the ratio is 1:23 and at ages 6-12 it is 1:25. For every 6 classes, 7 teachers are appointed to cover non-contact time. Rural schools with composite classes have lesser ratios: 3 stages - 1-15, 2 stages, 1:18.

Any additional support is given initally by the teacher who then refers them to support staff at the Berritzegenua who then support the teacher.

Tha an tuilleadh ri thighinn.

Le Mairi Bheag, Siusaidh agus Seonaidh Adams.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Trains and boats and planes la la la la la la la

An interesting but long journey getting here with just a couple of minor glitches...lost bags etc etc. Best bit of today's travel was by car from Biarritz Airport to San Sebastian. I was fortunate to be in the car driven by an older gentleman. I still don't know whether he was french, spanish or basque.

On entering the bus he offered us the choice of the "whoosh" route or the bendy, bendy route. This was communicated by hand and sounds........ not by words. He said the other group were on the "whoosh" route...viz the motorway! Our group made the excellent choice of the "bendy, bendy route"and during our journey we were accompanied by some wonderful music - including Ravel's Bolero. This is indeed a beautiful part of the world and our journey took us through Biarritz, a town full of superb buildings and then followed the coast road to the Basque town of Ciboure, France, close to the border with Spain. We passed the end of the street where Ravel was born. (Click on the post title link to find more).

San Sebastian (Donostia) surrounding La Concha Bay is better in real life than any picture..... the architecture, the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, the Sunday promenaders wrapped warmly and smartly marching along in the has the wow factor.

Euskara (one of the two official languages) is spoken by 35% of the town's residents. The other language is Castellano (Castilian Spanish).

Lots to see and learn. Roll on tomorrow.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

En Route

We all met up for the first time this evening and colleagues took the opportunity to introduce themselves and, from the healthy discussion about the visit, we can anticipate wide and varied debate over the next few days. I was surprised to find that not everyone knew each other. We come from differing backgrounds and as such ensures a broad spectrum of interests to follow through.

Our first difficult task for tomorrow is to make sure we get up early enough to make the 4.45am bus to the airport for our 6.00am flight to Paris. Early bed this Saturday evening for most but one or two thinking maybe easier to stay up because of the early start!

Second is to learn a few basic words of "Euskara" .........see Tweets!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Aupa!! Team

Zer moduz? Ez dakit euskaraz hitz egiten. Eraman SanSebastian, mesedez. Noiz irteten da San Sebastian ra doan busa?

Topa. Bihar arte.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Euskara Around the world

An interactive link depicting areas where the language is spoken across the world.

Interdisciplinary Teaching Materials

'Europan murgilduz' is a set of interdisciplinary material which aims to provide a series of activities designed to help teachers focus on the Euro-dimension of different areas of the curriculum. It is presented as a journey around different aspects of the European continent (art, culture, economy, political-social situation, languages, customs, etc.), as well as a way of getting to know the Europe that we are currently in the process of constructing (institutions,
citizenship, etc.). The materials are available for both Primary and Secondary pupils. Perhaps we could follow up to see how they are used in the different sectors? How would you contextualise within CfE. Might they be useful in your school?

Zer Zara Zu? Primary Children

Young children doing the teaching.

Could you use this idea by having eg P5-7 pupils make small movies of pupils P1-P7 to support Gaelic Medium parents who may have no language and putting on your school website or burning DVDs for them to access at home? Does anyone already do this? A cross-curricular activity building upon a wide range of skills, knowledge and social interactions. Hits a number or CfE requirements. Your thoughts? Anything from a parental perspective - CnP?

Luberri High School in San Sebastian

Some local school information.


Saturday, 23 January 2010

Structural Organization and Features of the Basque Educational System

Sistema Educ English

Weather Gadget

The little "gadget" on the left will keep you posted re the weather in the area. It won't take San Sebastian but if you click on the edit button and type in Bilbao it will give you the weather in that part of Spain. Maybe help you to decide whether clothing to take will be to cope with the cold or the rain........don't think the sun is going to be too much of a problem.....could be wrong of course! In San Sebastian the winter months from December to February see average temperatures of 9°C. Daytime highs are quite mild, around 12°C and average minimums at night reach 5°C to 6°C. Temperatures very rarely fall below 5°C and snow is highly unlikely. Rainfall is high. There are frequent showers and with the increasing strength of the wind huge storms can visit the area.

Google Map of San Sebastian

View Larger Map

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


Would you please confirm in the comments below that you have access to Glow.

Friday, 15 January 2010

San Sebastian

Kaixo - A few words of Euskara

If you are interested in learning a few words of the language have a look at these sites.
If you have a site you have found helpful share it here. I am not sure that the following phrase could be useful in the context of Curriculum for Excellence. However you might perhaps be able to change my mind!

"Nire aerolabangailua aingirez beteta dago" translated of course........."my hovercraft is full of eels"!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Basque Education - Background Reading

Do any of you speak Euskara? Have a look at this site which is written in Euskara and Spanish. One section of particular interest is under the tab "Nortzuk gara /About us". It gives a bit of the development of the Department of Education and the functions of the Berritzeguneak.If you download the google language toolbar it will instantly translate the web pages into english for you - spanish into english (not euskara).

Who are you?

As you can see from the map we live and work in different parts of Scotland. Intoduce yourself to the group by writing 3 or 4 sentences about yourself, your school and an area of particular interest to yourself which you would like to follow up during this visit.

San Sebastian Team

The blog is to allow us to share our experiences, thoughts and views of the visit exploring Immersion Education in The Basque country in Spain. What might we learn to inform good practice in Gaelic Education in Scotland?