Par­ent power Bill may force schools to run Gaelic classes

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Gra­ham Grant Home Af­fairs Edi­tor

PAR­ENTS will be able to force coun­cils to con­sider pro­vid­ing Gaelic ed­u­ca­tion un­der lat­est SNP plans.

An Ed­u­ca­tion Bill pub­lished yes­ter­day by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment sets out mea­sures aimed at pro­mot­ing the dy­ing tongue.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties would have to con­duct de­tailed stud­ies of de­mand for Gaelic pri­mary school­ing, if even a sin­gle par­ent re­quested it.

If the plan was con­sid­ered vi­able, the coun­cil would have to form a Gaelic medium ed­u­ca­tion (GME) unit, with English taught as a sec­ond lan­guage.

Last night the em­pha­sis on bol­ster­ing Gaelic was crit­i­cised at a time of fears over de­clin­ing class­room stan­dards.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said: ‘Hav­ing Gaelic pro­vi­sion is im­por­tant and cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties re­quire it.

‘How­ever, with more nurses needed in our hos­pi­tals, im­prove­ments needed on our roads, crum­bling school build­ings and in­vest­ment needed in fight­ing crime, you have to won­der if Gaelic ed­u­ca­tion should be the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­ity.’

He said ‘mil­lions have been spent on Gaelic pro­vi­sion’ de­spite it be­ing spo­ken by a mi­nor­ity of Scots, adding: ‘The public would rather see that money spent on front­line ser­vices.’

Ex­plana­tory notes at­tached to the draft Bill say coun­cils ‘must se­cure the pro­vi­sion of such Gaelic Medium Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion as it con­sid­ers ap­pro­pri­ate’.

The doc­u­ment adds: ‘ It is ex­pected that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will be able to meet th­ese new costs [of set­ting up Gaelic units] by re-al­lo­cat­ing fund­ing from within their ex­ist­ing re­sources for Gaelic, pri­mar­ily those pro­vided through the Gaelic Spe­cific Ed­u­ca­tion Grant and the Gaelic Schools Cap­i­tal Fund.’

A par­ent would have to show the fam­i­lies of other young­sters in the child’s year group are in­ter­ested in GME when re­quest-

‘Money bet­ter spent on ser­vices’

ing a study of the viability of set­ting up a GME unit.

GME units can cost up to £200,000 to build and £80,000 a year to run. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment says a ‘rea­son­able es­ti­mate for the im­pact of the Bill might be that it would re­sult in one new unit ev­ery two years’.

But of­fi­cials ad­mit: ‘A more sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the rate of new units open­ing as a re­sult of the Bill is un­likely given other con­straints on the sys­tem such as the avail­abil­ity of teach­ers.’

The num­ber of Gaelic speak­ers has fallen de­spite mil­lions be­ing spent on ef­forts to re­vive it. The Cen­sus shows num­bers have fallen by 1.2 per cent in a decade, with only 58,000 now classed as speak­ers. The pre­vi­ous decade saw num­bers plunge by 11 per cent, or more than 10,000.

In 2010 Gov­ern­ment quango Bòrd na Gàidhlig, which pro­motes Gaelic, said it was pre­pared to pun­ish public bod­ies in­clud­ing coun­cils that fail to co-op­er­ate in its bid to save the lan­guage from ex­tinc­tion by urg­ing min­is­ters to with­hold fund­ing.

Mean­while, Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary An­gela Con­stance yes­ter­day an­nounced an ad­di­tional £1mil­lion for coun­cils to buy text­books for use with the Cur­ricu­lum for Ex­cel­lence (CfE).

Larry Flana­gan, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the EIS teach­ing union, said: ‘The CfE has brought some fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions for schools, so it is wel­come that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has lis­tened to teach­ers’ con­cerns in mak­ing this ad­di­tional in­vest­ment.’

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