The city council will press ahead with proposals to open new primary and secondary Gaelic schools despite a “problematic” shortage of teachers who speak the language.
The authority hopes to open a new primary school in 2023 where pupils are taught through the medium of Gaelic- while a secondary school could follow by 2024. A host of short-term improvements will also be taken forward.
The council is facing a growing demand for Gaelic education but council officers admit that at the Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pairce primary school, “as the school has grown, the recruitment of sufficient Gaelic-speaking teachers has proven to be problematic.”
Conservative education spokesman, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, said: “Clearly, there’s a demand for it in Edinburgh for primary expansion. There’s a problem with the citywide catchment area for the current primary school with transport, which is provided by the council. If we move forward with any expansion of primary GME, I would like to see that geographic problem tackled by building it in the south west of the city.
“As it stands, the plan demonstrates ambition rather than reality. There’s a significant recruitment challenge the council has to address first before it moves forward. We need to focus on delivering the six priority high schools in the Wave 4 funding before we commit to the GME secondary school.”
The primary school in Bonnington now has 20 Gaelic-speaking teachers. At James Gillespie’s High School, the city’s Gaelic Medium Education (GME) secondary school, a recruitment drive has helped fill vacancies – but fewer lessons that expected have been taught in Gaelic.
By February 2020, the council will secure funding for a new early years and primary GME school, as well as a “new dedicated GME secondary school”. A Gaelic development officer will be recruited to oversee the expansion and work with the Gaelic community.
Parent Brian Thunder, convenor of Comann nam Pàrant (Dùn Èideann), labelled the proposals “a big step towards equality for Gaelic speakers”.
He added: “We are pleased that the paper presented to the committee demonstrated the City of Edinburgh Council’s support for the development of Gaelic medium education in the capital.
“It is encouraging too that GME continues to have cross-party support with all political parties endorsing the proposals. It is important that CEC now identify appropriate resources to enable them to deliver their plans and we believe an important step in that process is to recruit a Gaelic development officer to oversee delivery of this project and CEC’s wider Gaelic language plan.”
Cllr Alison Dickie, education vice convener and the council’s Gaelic champion, said it was important not to “stifle” a growing demand for Gaelic education.
She said: “We have been working so closely with the Gaelic community to get this right. They have long been crying out for a real long-term vision and strategic plan which fits with the growth of Gaelic across Scotland.
“This is just the start of a long-term strategic plan. The message across Scotland is that if you provide it, the growth comes. We still have those challenges around the wider teacher situation which we work on.”
Cllr Mary Campbell, Green education spokesperson, said: “I’m glad the council has more clarity over the growth and expansion of Gaelic Medium Education.
“As Scotland’s capital city, it’s essential that we support and nurture all of Scotland’s languages. We clearly have much more work to do, not least in recruiting and retaining sufficient teachers to deliver the growth in Gaelic education, and Greens will continue to press for action on this.”
David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service
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