A third Gaelic school in Scotland’s biggest city will open in 2019, as ministers say demand for education in the language continues to grow.
Fears have been raised, however, that Gaelic education is declining at exam level and that some Gaelic speakers feel so stretched they are considering leaving the profession.
Education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney (pictured) announced this afternoon that £1.9 million would be invested in the new school in the Cartvale area of Glasgow, which is expected to open to pupils in 2019.
Nearly 900 pupils are enrolled in Glasgow’s two existing Gaelic-medium schools – which see pupils learn all subjects in Gaelic – but both are now at capacity.
Following a debate on the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23, Mr Swinney said the new school would “provide capacity to meet growing demand from parents”.
Labour education spokesman Iain Gray welcomed progress since the 1970s, when the educational offerings to Gaelic-speaking children were “shameful”, progress was in danger of stalling.
However, he said that decreasing numbers of subjects offered at exam-level in schools risked squeezing out Gaelic, with Scottish Qualifications Authority figures already showed a fall in the number of students taking key Gaelic qualifications at National 5 (broadly equivalent to a good GCSE) and the gold-standard Higher level.
Mr Gray also said that difficulties in finding enough teachers with the right level of Gaelic schools were putting too much on the plates of native speakers in the profession – he had even heard of one who was considering quitting teaching .
Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The growth and development of Gaelic-medium education is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the great success stories of Scottish education over the last 25 years.”
But she added: “There is still a huge issue around teacher recruitment in secondary schools.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The language is still endangered…there is still an awful lot of work to do.”
The Scottish Government aims to return the number of Gaelic speakers of the language to those reported in the 2001 census by 2021, after a dip in numbers in the 2011 census. Some 4,000 pupils now receive their education in Gaelic, after modest beginnings in 1985 when that group numbered 24.