The governing body of independent schools in Scotland has published a “myth buster” for overseas parents – ruling out the likelihood they will pick up a local accent.
The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), which represents dozens of fee-paying institutions, has published the guidance which debunks concerns on a variety of issues – including the incessant rain, remoteness and their child returning home speaking like a Glaswegian or Aberdonian.
The body has insisted that although the accents issue had been raised it had been done so “lightheartedly”.
A spokesman also stressed that no student at an independent school in Scotland would be unaware of the culture they’re being educated in, from language to music to history.
Giving a ‘better understanding’ of what Scotland has to offer
In a blog post, the private schools body said: “We conducted some research among international parents and were surprised to discover there were a number of myths surrounding Scotland which may be deterring parents from sending their children to study here.
“Here, we look to dispel those myths and provide our international network with a better understanding of what Scotland has to offer.”
It concludes: “It doesn’t rain all the time, your child is unlikely to pick up a Scottish accent, it is incredibly accessible, it gives your child much more choice and they’ll enjoy the views from some of the best classrooms in the world.”
Despite being a member of the private school body, Gordonstoun, where Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh were educated, hit back at the ‘myth’.
They say that parents of their students do not worry about Scottish accents and with more than 40 nationalities on campus – they say “all kinds of accents can be heard and we think that’s a wonderful thing”.
The spokeswoman for the school said: “As a school which is situated on the beautiful Moray coast and close to the Highlands, we find that our Scottish links are a draw for our parents.
“We have an award-winning pipe band and one in five of our students play the pipes or drums.
“We also have regular ceilidhs and all our students learn to sail on the west coast and go on regular expeditions which build their appreciation of all that Scotland has to offer.
“Our Scottish students, who along with those from the rest of the UK make up two thirds of our pupil body, live alongside students from more than 40 nationalities, so all kinds of accents can be heard on campus and we think that’s a wonderful thing.”
Local phrases likely to be picked up
It is understood that the concerns raised by parents in regards to their children developing Scottish accents, none had serious concerns and merely saw it as a cultural difference rather than a distraction.
However, several language experts warned that it was “disingenuous” to tell overseas parents their children will not pick up at least some of the accent.
Dr Joanna Kopaczyk, senior lecturer in Scots and English language at Glasgow University, told The Times: “The child will most likely pick up at least some features of Scottish accent, and most certainly Scottish phrases and words.
“When a child is immersed in a linguistic environment different to that at home, they will inevitably pick up various features characteristic of that environment. For example, the children of Polish immigrants to Scotland who entered school with barely any English, now speak perfect Scottish English.
“If this promise is meant to suggest that having a Scottish accent could be some kind of hindrance in life, it is quite puzzling and unfounded.”
However, Professor Robert McColl Millar, who holds a chair in linguistics and Scottish language at Aberdeen University, said: “In countries where English is not often the first language, most people are taught one of two pronunciations: received pronunciation and general American, essentially an idealised representation of Mid West middle-class speech.
“Stepping away from those norms may be felt to be letting learners down.”
An SCIS spokesman told The Times: “The comment about accents was neither seen as negative nor disadvantageous.
“It is something potential parents overseas have raised in the past, however light-heartedly, but never in a sense that such a thing might be a detraction, merely a cultural difference as exists the world over.”