Edinburgh’s first Gaelic school gets thumbs-up

Pupils from Tolcross Primary's Gaelic unit. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Pupils from Tolcross Primary's Gaelic unit. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Capital’s first ever Gaelic school will be bursting at the seams when it opens after the summer – thanks to unprecedented demand from parents.

We can reveal nearly 60 youngsters are set to join Parkside Primary in August – an intake which far exceeds education chiefs’ expectations.

Many of the youngsters comes from non-Gaelic speaking backgrounds – but ARE language buffs, speaking languages as diverse as Japanese, German and French. Headteacher Anne MacPhail said the school which has pupils from Tolcross Primary’s now-closed Gaelic unit, opens on the site of the old Bonnington Primary and will be known as Bun-sgoil Taobh na Parc in Gaelic – will provide a uniquely polyglot learning environment when the youngsters come in after the summer break.

Ms MacPhail said: “I did not expect the rolls to be that big. It’s very healthy and very encouraging that families of all different kinds and from all different parts of the city are coming to the school.

“Many of these families have little or no direct connection with Gaelic but are interested in the culture and in bilingualism. And a significant number of our children are also fluent in another language – Spanish, Japanese, Malaysian – so we’re heading for multi-lingualism.”

As well as a larger than expected P1 intake, the other classes are also busy with 36 pupils in P2, 25 in P3, 31 in P4, 24 in P5, 21 in P6 and 18 in P7.

“With an environment such as this, the children emerge with more confidence,” said Ms MacPhail. “They have a better understanding of different ways of being and a better acceptance of that.”

The figures were welcomed by education and linguistics experts.

Antonella Sorace, professor of developmental linguistics at Edinburgh University and director of the Bilingualism Matters research group, said: “There will be big challenges ahead for this school. But the pupils will have all the benefits of bilingualism - greater mental flexibility and language learning abilities.”