City must find extra £1m to pay for Gaelic school

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THE cost to Edinburgh council tax- payers of creating a new Gaelic school in the city has soared by more than £1 million.

It has emerged that the city council will be forced to borrow £1.7m to transform the former Bonnington Primary into a Gaelic facility, a year after councillors were told the project would cost just £600,000.

The Scottish Government was originally going to contribute £1.4m, which would have met the bulk of the cost of converting the school. However, the costs soared as a result of vandalism and roof and water damage to the empty building, meaning the project is now priced at £3.5m

The Government will now up its contribution to £1.8m but it will be up to the city council to find the rest from prudential borrowing.

That is sure to cause fresh anger among critics who have always questioned the move to set up a dedicated Gaelic school to replace the Gaelic Medium Education (GME) unit within Tollcross Primary – especially as headteachers elsewhere struggle to balance their books.

The school’s opening date has been put back by a year – to August 2013 – as a result of the work required.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: “Scottish Government support for a dedicated primary school, and not for any other model, means Bonnington is the only show in town. This administration has been struggling to find a way of expanding Gaelic medium education in the face of a very restrictive economic situation and this increased financial contribution has made the move to a stand-alone school possible.

“We always said we’d listen to all opinions and consider all options and that the decision would be objective and independent.

“I am hopeful that a council decision will allow work to quickly start on the site and that a new Gaelic school will be ready for its first pupils in 2013.”

Parents have also welcomed news that plans for the school are still on track. Alasdair Cameron, of Comann nam Pàrant, said: “The important thing is that places are provided for all families who wish to access GME.

“A Gaelic school at Bonnington is the best way to meet demand for places and we are delighted that the council and the Government have worked together to agree funding for it.

“Steps now need to be taken to ensure the new school is ready as quickly as possible to avoid costly temporary measures at Tollcross.”

In a new report due to be published today, education director Gillian Tee reiterated the council’s commitment to providing a dedicated Gaelic primary.

She said: “After taking account of the representations made, the issues arising and the costs associated with either option, it is considered that the implementation of option one – a dedicated GME primary school and nursery – offers the best educational outcome and associated best value for City of Edinburgh.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com

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