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Call to Change Glasgow Gaelic School Language Entry Requirements

Mar 2016

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Glasgow Gaelic School

On Berkley Street in Glasgow stands a school quite different to almost every other one in the city. When this school’s teachers walk into their classrooms on a Monday morning they aren’t treated to shouts (or groans) of good morning but madainn mhath.

That’s because this is Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (Glasgow Gaelic School) — a bastion of Gaelic in a sea of English.

Founded in 1999, the Glasgow Gaelic School has specialised in Gaelic Medium Education: teaching solely in Gaelic with English taught as a secondary language. It quickly became a magnet for Gaelic-speaking families in the west of Scotland who wished their children to continue using the language.

However, due to the school’s excellent reputation, parents of non-Gaelic speaking children have begun pushing for their children to attend the school. In fact, the Glasgow Gaelic School is becoming so popular that local Gaelic-speaking families are actually having their children rejected.

Parent Helen Mackinnon recently spoke to a major newspaper about her experience.

Helen and her four-year-old son Finn both speak Gaelic as their first language. However, despite living just 1.3 miles from the Gaelic Primary School, Finn was denied a placing request spot at the Glasgow Gaelic School.

Newspapers and online message boards are littered with stories just like this: Gaelic families unable to get their children into the only local Gaelic schools because of where they live.

This is because the Glasgow Gaelic School — like most other schools in Scotland — prioritises distance over suitability of teaching methods in its placing request application process. While this makes sense for most schools, some argue that the Glasgow Gaelic School should be treated differently because it teaches in a language most children do not speak.

Fiona Carter is another concerned parents and opted to take matters into her own hands by launching a petition to rectify the problem. The petition asks legislators to ‘prioritise children in Gaelic Medium nursery for enrolment at GGS [Glasgow Gaelic School] and GGPS [Glasgow Gaelic Primary School]”.

Carter believes that those who have made a commitment to the Gaelic language — sending their children to Gaelic language pre-school, volunteering for Gaelic outreach in schools, etc — should be given priority over those who happen to live locally.

[W]e would suggest that the ‘Distance’ and ‘Suitability of Teaching Methods’ criteria are reversed in order of priority of application to allow the children in Gaelic-medium nursery settings to continue their education.

It’s not just the reputation that is driving up demand for the school either. While the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland has hemorrhaged over the past 140 years, the number of younger speakers is actually on the up.

Between 1991 and 2001, the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland fell by 11 percent. Over the next decade, the overall decline has slowed (a 1.2 percent fall) and the number of young speakers actually increased by a fraction of one percent.

The rise in younger speakers combined with increased demand for specific schools has resulted in unprecedented levels of demand for Gaelic Medium Education in Glasgow.

The next few years will be key for the Gaelic language in Glasgow and we are very interested to see how the local authority responds.

If you require Gaelic interpretation, translation or training, get in touch with our team today.

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