SOARING demand for Gaelic education in Scotland’s largest city has led to the need for a third primary school.
Glasgow City Council is recommending a formal consultation on a new school because the two existing primaries are already full with demand expected to grow.
The increasing numbers of primary pupils in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) also means there is a need to ensure enough places are available at secondary.
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The move comes after an upsurge in interest in GME - where pupils are taught the majority of lessons in the language as well as studying English.
More than 6,000 children were in GME education in 2016 across Scotland and new legislation has placed an obligation on councils to investigate the case for a Gaelic unit whenever parents ask for one.
Local authorities have argued the measure is impractical because of a shortage of funds and a lack of qualified teachers. There is also a traditional hostility to Gaelic from critics who argue it is a “dead language”.
However, a paper to the council’s education committee highlighted the fact only 20 per cent of pupils currently involved in GME have Gaelic-speaking parents.
The paper states: “Demand for GME has further risen with a sharp increase in August 2016. With primary provision growing, secondary provision also needs to grow.
“The current sustainable P1 intake across both GME primary schools is 85. This is considerably fewer places than the current demand.”
The paper warns that there will be cost implications and also a rising need for Gaelic speaking teachers with current shortages across Scotland.
It concludes: “It is accepted there is a need for a third school for uptake of GME to be maintained at current levels, never mind expand.”
Fiona Dunn, Gaelic Language Officer for Glasgow University, said the increase in interest in urban areas was surprising, but welcome.
She said: “People have always been very positive about the benefits of bilingual education and it is an attractive option, but I don’t think anyone expected it to grow at the rate it has.
“We know the majority of pupils don’t have a prior connection to the language so people are being attracted to the academic achievements of the school which gives us a very different Gaelic community in Glasgow to what we are seeing elsewhere.
“I think we have a responsibility to work closely with those pupils and educate them about the strong history of the Gaels in the city, which is quite often hidden.”
Liz Cameron, the council’s executive member for children, said: “Glasgow is proud to be the largest provider of GME outside of the Highlands and Islands and we are now planning for the future as demand rises each year.
“After hosting successful engagement sessions with current and potential families at the end of last year we are now recommending a formal consultation on a potential third primary school in the city.”
Glasgow opened its first primary GME provision in 1999 and demand grew steadily until the council opened its first all-through GME school in the west of the city. A second primary school opened on the south side in in 2016.
Research has shown there are benefits to bilingualism with greater cognitive flexibility which improves the ability of individuals to adapt when faced with a new situation or when learning new skill.