Church leader slams Gaelic axe plans

The Church of Scotland moderator has hit out plans to cut Gaelic education provision from an Edinburgh secondary school.

James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Youngsters at the capital’s Gaelic primary have been warned they are set to be denied a place at James Gillespie’s High School, which has offered Gaelic medium education for over 20 years.

The high school is expected to be oversubscribed for the next academic year at S1 level, and priority will be given to pupils who live closest to the school. The axe is likely to fall on Gaelic pupils because they come from all over the city and are likely to live outside Gillespie’s mainstream catchment.

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Rev Dr Angus Morrison is the Church’s first Gaelic-speaking Moderator for several decades and says he is “deeply concerned” about the move.

Dr Morrison said: “If parents are not confident about the provision of secondary education this could have an impact on the number of families committed to making their children part of a drive to revitalise this fragile language which is an important part of Scotland’s heritage.

“I fear that if Gaelic is allowed to wither in Scotland’s capital, it becomes very fragile indeed.”

The term Gaelic medium education (GME) means children learn everything they would in mainstream classes, but by using Gaelic.

Gaelic pupils who don’t get into Gillespie’s are being offered a place in Tynecastle High School. Although Tynecastle teaches Gaelic to learners, it is not the “medium” approach which sees comprehensive Gaelic education from S1 to Higher under the guidance of a teacher who is a native speaker.

Parents of Taobh Na Pairce pupils who were expected to enrol at James Gillespie’s in August this year were only informed of the City of Edinbrugh Council proposal on Friday last week. They are upset about a lack of consultation over the proposed change, which goes before the education, children and families committee on Tuesday.