Gaelic passions reined in

Neil Munro

Councils will strongly resist the imposition of any new duty to provide Gaelic education.

Education authority leaders in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities reacted with alarm to a Scottish Office letter that asked whether there should be a statutory obligation to provide Gaelic-medium primary education where there was "reasonable demand", defined as at least eight parental requests.

A Cosla report says this "could lead to the system being abused" and pointed out that other areas such as music tuition are being cut back although demand is higher than for Gaelic education.

Elizabeth Maginnis, Cosla's education spokesperson and convener in Edinburgh, commented: "It is not clear whether we are expected to support this on an obligatory or voluntary basis. I am comfortable with the principle that Gaelic has to be supported, but I am less comfortable with the suggestion that it might take priority over other educational areas."

Val MacIver, Highland's education chairman, pleaded with her colleagues to support Gaelic education but "at the right pace and in the right place". Joan Orskov, education chair in Aberdeenshire, said a survey found that parents there wanted Gaelic-medium education because they liked small classes or favoured bilingual education irrespective of the language. Only one supported Gaelic for its own sake.

Scottish Office proposals to overcome teacher shortages in secondary schools by turning Gaelic-speaking subject specialists into Gaelic-medium teachers have simply stiffened Cosla's resistance. The suggested 50-day training course, costing Pounds 13,000, is double the time for training primary teachers in foreign languages, Cosla points out.

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