THE Capital’s first Gaelic primary school is to launch a drive for bilingual janitors and dinner ladies as part of radical moves to offer “total immersion” language-learning.
Teachers at Parkside Primary – or Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirc – said they hoped its dining hall and corridors would soon resound to phrases such as “Cuir air falabh na truinnsearan agaibh!” (“clear away your plates!”) and Cus còmhraidh! (“too much chat!”).
In what could be the most demanding application process in the country, education chiefs revealed they would “look very favourably” on applicants who are either bilingual or willing to learn the Celtic tongue after the new school opens in August on the site of the old Bonnington Primary. Headteacher Anne MacPhail said: “Parkside will be based on the principle of complete immersion – the children will be hearing Gaelic all day long and will gradually begin to use the language themselves.
“We’re looking for staff who can speak Gaelic or are willing to learn it because we want children to hear it in a range of situations and not just in the classroom.”
In addition to a janitor, school bosses hope to hire two catering staff with knowledge or interest in Gaelic after their recruitment drive begins in the next few weeks.
Ms MacPhail also said the new school’s office workers would need to be proficient in Gaelic as they will be interacting with pupils and teachers far more frequently.
She said bringing in bilingual workers at the new school would be an ambitious departure from the current set-up at Tollcross Primary’s Gaelic medium unit, where only teaching staff working directly with pupils are required to know the language.
“It’s important that people who have some Gaelic are not afraid to put themselves forward and don’t think they are not good enough,” she said. “We hear that all the time from people who actually just need a bit of practice.
“Certainly, I would be very happy to meet with people at Tollcross Primary to discuss any of the posts and opportunities we have at Parkside.”
Gaelic experts and councillors have hailed the recruitment plans.
Ronnie Black, a former lecturer in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University, said: “It’s important they’re doing this – it’s a bad thing if children are given the impression that Gaelic is a language only spoken in the classroom.
“You want to avoid the reverse of the old situation on the Scottish islands where you had a Gaelic-speaking community which sent their children to school where everything was in English.
“You’re essentially trying to produce an atmosphere that’s the same for a child growing up learning to speak French in France – you want to make it a natural thing.”
Councillor Deidre Brock, SNP member for Leith Walk, said: “There’s a tremendous enthusiasm for Gaelic language and culture at the moment. It’s growing all the time.
“And I don’t think janitors or dinner staff coming in need to be worried about keeping up with the pupils.
“They’re using language classes called Ulplan at Tollcross at the moment, which I know can bring people up to everyday fluency fairly quickly.”
She added: “This plan is really exciting and I know the Gaelic community in the city is over the moon about it.”
TO GET YOU STARTED . .
SOME phrases which Parkside Primary pupils might hear in the school dining hall or if they bump into the janitor:
• A bheil thu ag iarraidh buntàta leis na h-isbeanan agad? - Do you want potatoes with your sausages? (Gaelic has no direct translation of “chips”)
• Sguir a’ ruith anns an trannsa! - Stop running in the corridor!
• Feumaidh sinn an goileadair a chàireadh - We’ll need to fix the boiler.
• Cuir air falabh na truinnsearan agaibh! - Clear away your plates!
• Cus còmhraidh! -
Too much chat!