Anyone can study Gaelic

10th December 2004 at 00:00
Your correspondent Hugh Donnelly uses some very strange logic to justify his attack on Gaelic-medium education in Glasgow (TESS, November 26). He tries to mask self-interest with an apparent desire to help the language, but his solution would seriously hinder and undermine the development of Gaelic-medium education provision in the city.

Mr Donnelly claims that the provision of a state-funded Gaelic school in Glasgow will somehow be "exclusive and elitist". I have tried in vain to understand what he means. How can a language, which anyone can learn, be "exclusive and elitist"? How can a state-funded school in Glasgow be "exclusive and elitist"? This is not Eton, Gordonstoun, or indeed Glasgow High School. This school would be open to any child of any colour, creed or class in the city of Glasgow who wishes to be educated in Gaelic.

A few years ago Glasgow City Council made a courageous and far-sighted decision to open Scotland's first Gaelic primary school. This school is now at bursting point because so many parents, including a majority of non Gaelic-speaking mums and dads, can see the benefits of bilingual education.

Previously, Gaelic-medium education was provided through a unit within a bigger school. It was a useful starting point but it did not attract parents and pupils in the same numbers as the new school. In other words, Gaelic development was hindered and restricted.

Ironically, the amazing success of the new BunSgoil Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu has created another challenge for the council. It now has to choose between restricting the further development of a uniquely successful model it has pioneered in Scotland and creating a bigger school which would dramatically increase the available space.

The Gaelic unit at Hillpark has been extremely useful but with certain limitations. A small linguistic unit within a much bigger school cannot develop in the way that a separate school can. It is much more difficult to create a Gaelic ethos which underpins the bilingual learning process. It also restricts the numbers that can learn Gaelic.

I can understand Mr Donnelly's disappointment at losing the Gaelic pupils at Hillpark Secondary. They have consistently been among the best pupils at his school. Is this purely as a result of the socio-economic factors he identifies or is he missing the point again? There is a lot of evidence from around the world which shows that bilingual children tend to outperform kids who only speak one language.

The Gaelic language is extremely vulnerable and every new pupil who learns the language is important. Glasgow City Council and, previously, Strathclyde Region have been extremely supportive towards Gaelic and have often shown the rest of Scotland the way forward.

It is good that the council's ruling Labour group has agreed to proceed with the new school which will be another asset for the city. Glasgow councillors have too much sense to allow Gaelic development to be derailed by the narrow-minded, self-interest of Mr Donnelly.

Rhoda Morrison

Victoria Park Gardens

South Broomhill

Glasgow

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