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`No explanation' as Gaelic teacher numbers cut

I am writing regarding your article on Sandbank Primary School in Argyll and Bute ("The primary school proving academics wrong", News, 29 May).

Unfortunately the school has to reduce the number of teachers within its Gaelic medium unit (GMU) from three to two, which will mean pupils being split into a P1-3 class and a P4-7 class. This has raised a number of issues:

1. Parents were only informed recently, with no explanation of who had made the decision and why, or whether it could be appealed.

2. P4 children in the GMU begin to split their time between English and Gaelic, so in theory you could have a single teacher trying to teach children in two languages in four subject areas concurrently, as classroom assistants are not Gaelic-speaking.

3. The number of children entering the GMU is on the increase, and the benefits of the smaller class sizes and bilingualism were explained to parents in great detail. The reduction in teacher numbers appears to be a backwards step.

4. The teacher whose class no longer exists will still be employed by the school as a "McCrone teacher", providing cover to allow other staff non-contact time. As Gaelic medium teachers are very difficult to recruit and retain, this appears to be a poor use of a specialist resource.

The article praised the school, and I'm sure Argyll and Bute Council happily shares the credit. Yet it appears to the parents of a third of the school population that they are reducing the effectiveness of that education through a saving we don't understand.

Douglas Orr


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