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Striking a Chord: Traditional Music for pupils in Renfrewshire

Feis Phaislig, a charitable organisation established in 2015, has been at the forefront of promoting traditional music and Gaelic culture in Paisley and across Renfrewshire, with a mission to integrate Gaelic into the wider community,

The organisation has been delivering a variety of music, arts, and language opportunities to schools and community groups. 


In 2023, Feis Phaislig expanded its reach to include Additional Support Needs (ASN) schools, responding to specific requests from these institutions. The ASN Traditional Music & Gaelic Project, funded by the Essentia Foundation, was born out of this expansion. 

It aims to introduce traditional music and culture to pupils with additional support needs, building upon the organisation's successful work in mainstream school settings. 

The project targets approximately 180 pupils across the school year on a rolling basis, employing a specialised freelance tutor to deliver tailored workshops that cater to the participants' unique needs.


The project is currently operating in two ASN schools: Riverbrae School in Linwood and Mary Russell School in Paisley. These locations are significant, as parts of Paisley and Linwood have experienced economic challenges due to deindustrialisation, ranking among the most deprived areas in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The project's dedicated tutor conducts weekly sessions at both schools. The curriculum includes traditional music instruction, Gaelic language elements, and the use of Makaton signs to enhance accessibility. Each term consists of eight weekly sessions, with a total of 24 sessions planned for the academic year.


Despite its relatively short duration, the ASN Traditional Music & Gaelic Project has already demonstrated significant positive impacts on its participants. The project has seen improvements in two key areas:

  • Educational Attainment:
    The project has fostered increased engagement in education, with ten children consistently participating in each session. Pupils have shown a marked increase in enthusiasm for learning, potentially contributing to broader educational benefits.
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing:
    Participants have exhibited greater resilience and improved self-care skills. The project has boosted children's confidence through learning new songs and associated Makaton signs. Pupils have expressed joy in engaging with the accessible activities, indicating a positive impact on their overall mental health and wellbeing.

Feedback from teachers highlights the positive influence of the project. Lynsey Coffield, Principal Teacher at Mary Russell School, shared: “Sean brings a calm enthusiasm for traditional music. Children are always so engaged and look forward to his classes. He has been mentioned in their school reports as highlights within their weekly curriculum. We look forward to working with Seán again in the future.”

By adapting traditional music and Gaelic instruction to meet the specific needs of these students, Feis Phaislig has created an inclusive and enriching experience that extends beyond mere cultural exposure. The project not only introduces pupils to Scotland's rich musical heritage but also serves as a vehicle for improving educational outcomes and enhancing mental wellbeing.