Testing time for Gaelic parents

17th October 1997 at 01:00
Selection to be reintroduced in education? By a Labour authority? That is what has been proposed by Edinburgh's education committee.

For a number of years Tollcross School has built up a very successful Gaelic-medium primary unit, the only one so far in the capital. Now, if the committee's decision last Thursday stands, the unit's intake is to be capped. New applicants will be selected as to whether they are to be allowed access to the benefits of bilingualism - supported by the Inspectorate and Education and Gaelic Minister Brian Wilson - and to fluency in one of our national tongues.

How? By giving priority to the children of Edinburgh residents with Gaelic, say the committee. As the representative body for Gaelic learners and supporters, CLI deplores this proposal as an attack not only on the principle of access to education for all, but also on the linguistic rights of all in Edinburgh.

How? By giving parents a language test? What is fluent? When does a learner qualify as having sufficient Gaelic? Does a half-fluent single parent qualify as much as a couple where only one is fluent? Or are they proposing some kind of ancestral heritage as the marker of the "true Gael"? It is the families of our members and others of all backgrounds, nationalities and language who stand to lose.

We fully support the campaign led by the local parents to reverse this dangerous decision, and reject totally the pleading of committee convenor Elizabeth Maginnis, in writing to CLI, that raising the barrier on children's education "will depend entirely on the question of specific grant and continued resources from the Government".

If a child is denied Gaelic education, a place and teacher for him or her will have to be found in an English-medium class. As elsewhere, Gaelic education must be allowed to grow and flourish.


Director Comann an Luchd-Ionnsachaidh Invergordon, Ross-shire

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