City reveals plan to open a dedicated Gaelic school

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A DEDICATED Gaelic school could be created in the Capital under plans being considered by education chiefs.

A new report reveals that growing numbers of children studying the language will mean the current Gaelic unit in Tollcross Primary will become too small by 2011.

The council is considering a number of options to expand provision, including converting Tollcross Primary into a dedicated Gaelic school by sending its non-Gaelic pupils to other schools, or by setting up a brand new school dedicated to the language.

One option which has been mooted is to turn Bonnington Primary, which has been lying empty since the council closed it a year ago, into a Gaelic school.

However, it would cost around 2.8 million to refurbish and equip the school at a time when the council is proposing school closures across the estate.

A report on the provision of Gaelic in schools recognises that creating a dedicated school would be "controversial".

It states: "In the current economic climate, the development of a new, publicly funded school which meets the needs of a 'minority' language may be seen by some as controversial.

"Therefore, a campaign addressing these issues and focusing on the legislative requirement imposed on the council by Scottish Government should be considered."

Campaigner Karen Keil, who is fighting to save Drumbrae from the axe, said it highlighted the lack of "joined-up thinking" across the school estate.

She said: "What we have been calling for is a strategic review of the entire school estate based on the projected population growth for the next five years.

"It does seem that there's no joined-up thinking at all and I'm sure this will be particularly frustrating for parents of the Bonnington Primary children."

The report also recognises that funding the project will raise significant issues for the council.

It says:

"It has been made very clear that there is no capital or revenue funding for a dedicated Gaelic school currently available from the council.

"As a consequence, Scottish Government would have to wholly fund any dedicated school option for the first five years."

The council has agreed to prepare another report by next month on the feasibility of installing temporary units at Tollcross Primary as a short-term solution.

Education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: "Clearly there is growing demand for Gaelic education but we are facing real budget constraints so it's highly unlikely that we'll be in the position to develop a dedicated school.

"We do want to look at other options, though, and we have called for a report into using temporary units at schools as a possible option for the short term."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government commends Edinburgh City Council for its support of Gaelic medium education and this feasibility study indicates good signs of success in this provision.

"We understand the council is now looking at options for the future growth of Gaelic education in Edinburgh and look forward to discussions with the council on the way forward in the future."

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