AN ever-present amongst the top schools in Scotland over the past few years has been the Glasgow Gaelic School.

This year is no exception with the school coming top for council-run state schools in Glasgow and tenth overall after 68 per cent of school-leavers secured five or more Highers.

Although located to the west of the city centre, the school is unusual because its catchment area covers the whole of Glasgow and all lessons are taught through the medium of Gaelic.

When the secondary opened in 2006 it only had 33 pupils, but there are now 343 and numbers are growing.

Donalda McComb, the school’s headteacher, said the bilingual nature of the education on offer helped boost attainment and provided a special atmosphere.

“We have created a unique and welcoming campus. Because we are an all-through school from three to 18 we can track the pupils very closely as they develop and we really get to know them,” she said.

“We also have very strong family engagement and we expect parents to be involved in their child’s learning from nursery through primary and into secondary.

“Eighty per cent of our families don’t have Gaelic in the home so they are making informed decisions about sending their children to this environment, but we also say to them that they have to work hard alongside their child.”

Ms McComb dismissed a perception the secondary was outperforming others because parents who choose a Gaelic language education in cities are more middle class.

According to poverty statistics, some 15 per cent of pupils from the Glasgow Gaelic School come from neighbourhoods classed as the poorest in Scotland - although 17 per cent come from the richest.

She said: “Some 19 per cent of our school population are eligible for free school meals and every year that is increasing.

“By now we should be over the perception of Gaelic as for middle class families. That is not the case.

“We encourage all families from the local area and beyond so that parents know what is ahead and it is unfair if people still see us like that. Our class sizes are no smaller than any other school.”

Ms McComb said bilingual education was known to help pupils develop.

“There is a lot of research about how bilingualism helps you cognitively because it gives you two windows on the world,” she said.

“Gaelic education is also very rich because it tells you all about the culture of Scotland with music, traditions and history.

“We have to embed that in our children to foster a pride in learning this language that may be new to them or may have been lost to them.

“Many of our pupils will go on to have families themselves and enrol their own children into Gaelic medium education, but others may not use the language in future. Whatever our pupils do, all have had a benefit from bilingual education.”