Asian spice sways language school bid

21st January 2000 at 00:00
COUNCIL leaders in Glasgow confidently expect that the city's Shawlands Academy, which has been at the centre of ethnic tensions over the years, will become the nationally recognised specialist school for teaching non-European languages.

The council has bid for Scottish Executive funding which officials say has been accepted in principle.

With last week's decision by the education committee to relocate the secondary bilingual unit from Hillhead High to Shawlands, the school could be of "national importance in terms of modern languages", Ken Corsar, the city's director of education, says. Discussions are expected to take place soon on the details of the plan.

Glasgow already has two specialist schools, the School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy and the Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Secondary. There are also two specialist music schools at Broughton High in Edinburgh and Douglas Academy in East Dunbartonshire.

A third has now been added with last week's announcement that gifted young musicians would also be able to attend a unit at Dyce Academy in Aberdeen.

Mr Corsar said that Shawlands could become a centre of excellence for the teaching of languages which are not common in other schools, such as Urdu, Punjabi and Chinese.

"Looking ahead, some of these languages, particularly Chinese, could have immense commercial sigificance. We are not simply looking at children from an Asian background being the targets for this teaching. We hope that it could be open to children of all backgrounds where they see themselves having a particular talent, aptitude or need for one of these languages," he said.

Best value could be achieved by combining the funding available from the Scottish Executive, expected to be in the region of pound;500,000, and the pound;200,000 cost to the council of relocating the bilingual unit, by providing additional accommodation at Shawlands and using the expertise of the staff currently at the school.

The decision to relocate Glasgow's bilingual unit for secondary pupils, which caters at any one time for 30 youngsters who are English learners, follows the closure of Woodside Secondary last June and its absorption into Hillhead High where capacity is at full stretch.

The choice of Shawlands, with a large ethnically mixed population, was taken in preference to Bellahouston Academy where accommodation could come under pressure if the School of Sport expands.

But in his report to the council's education committee, Richard Barron, acting depute director of education, warned that Shawlands as well as Bellahouston will come under additional pressure if Glasgow is chosen later this year as a reception zone for asylum seekers and their families.

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