A tongue-lashing over teacher shortage as Gaelic plan agreed

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Parents and pupils at Edinburgh’s only Gaelic high school have demanded action to address a teacher shortage and to stand up for children facing discrimination.

The calls came as the city council yesterday agreed its Gaelic Language Plan for 2018-22.

James Gillespies High School in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

James Gillespies High School in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

It was revealed the authority only has one Gaelic teacher in employment for Gaelic medium education (GME) at James Gillespie’s High School where pupils are taught primarily through the medium of Gaelic. Speaking at a meeting of the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee, which unanimously agreed the plan, parent Marion Thompson raised worries about protection for GME pupils.

She said: “There will always be a small number of people who don’t support minority rights. We don’t want to open the door to more prejudice and more disrespect.

“No-one wants their children’s language to be the subject of ridicule, no-one wants to hear their children described as parasitical... these are real comments and, to be honest, are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Please don’t open the door to this abuse. We are asking you to stand up for equal respect for our children.”

Lachlan Peel – a pupil at James Gillespie’s High School – asked the council to do more to employ teachers and provide greater extra-curricular activities in Gaelic. He said: “There aren’t enough teachers in James Gillespie’s High School and other high schools across Scotland. I’m now in S6 and there’s only one Gaelic teacher for the entire high school. It’s not good enough.”

The council is proposing to move its Gaelic high school from James Gillespie’s to Drummond Community High. The council expects to have 1537 pupils at James Gillespie’s, which has a capacity of 1300, by 2021. The number of pupils in Gaelic secondary education in Edinburgh is predicted to treble from 88 to 271 pupils by 2023/24.

Parent Brian Thunder said: “Simply creating more classroom space will not be enough to meet that demand. This council needs to support the development and encouragement of teachers capable of delivering GME otherwise the quality of GME education will be diluted. There is only one teacher delivering GME to almost 100 pupils at high school. We need you to act now turn this situation around.”

The Gaelic Language Plan will prioritise “consolidating” teacher recruitment as well as attempting to improve the visibility of the language in the workplace, culture and heritage of Edinburgh.

Leader of the council and committee convener, Cllr Adam McVey, said: “I’m aware of just how difficult that is for us to source the teachers we need to deliver the full curriculum that we are trying to do.”

The language plan will now go to Bòrd na Gàidhlig for its consideration and approval.
Cllr Alison Dickie, the council’s Gaelic champion, said: “Today’s approval of the Gaelic Language Plan should be seen by all as the council’s commitment to further develop and embed Gaelic into the life of our beautifully diverse Edinburgh. In my short time as Gaelic Champion, it has been a pleasure to work with members of the Gaelic implementation group to help shape this plan.”