James Gillespie’s High Gaelic backflip welcomed by parents

These Gaelic school pupils from Taobh Na Pairce primary are happy to be going to Gillespie's after all. Picture: Scott Taylor

These Gaelic school pupils from Taobh Na Pairce primary are happy to be going to Gillespie's after all. Picture: Scott Taylor

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PARENTS and pupils are celebrating after a U-turn by the council handed youngsters from the city’s Gaelic primary school the guarantee of a place at James Gillespie’s High.

Education bosses had warned up to nine pupils hoping to start S1 in August could be turned away because of high demand.

But the move sparked an outcry in the Gaelic community.

And after a threat of legal action over the issue from Bord na Gaidhlig, the body which promotes the language, the report due to be discussed at yesterday’s education committee was withdrawn.

And the council announced all pupils from the Gaelic-medium primary, Taobh na Pairce, would get a place after all.

Gillespie’s is the designated high school for Gaelic-medium pupils, but because they come from all over the city they were first in line to be turned away when the roll looked full.

Instead they faced going to their own local high school or Tynecastle High, which has some Gaelic provision.

But Gillespie’s head Donald Macdonald said he would make sure they were all accommodated.

And the council is to set up a working group to look at the longer-term options for Gaelic-medium secondary education.

Jennifer Gilmour, spokeswoman for the parents, welcomed the change of heart. She said: “We’re delighted they have seen sense. The main thing is they are making arrangements to accommodate the pupils who were already part way through the transition.

“I think the councillors had all realised the strength of feeling and that it had not been done in the right way, it had been sprung on people at the last minute.”

In a letter to parents, the council insisted it had “a strong commitment to developing Gaelic within the city”.

Marion Thompson, whose daughter Sorcha will go to Gillespie’s in August, said: “All the families affected are very relieved that the children have been guaranteed a place at their catchment school.

“It was very distressing for many to have the possibility of places being withdrawn so far into the transition process.

“It’s particularly important to us that our children go to their catchment school as it is the only school in Edinburgh offering a continuation of their Gaelic-medium education.

“The children are delighted that they will be going to high school with their Gaelic speaking friends.

“We are encouraged that the council has given us a strong commitment to now look at all the options for expanding Gaelic secondary education going forward, and to involve parents fully in that process.”

Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik said it was “unfortunate” the committee could not discuss the issue due to legal advice.

But he said: “Having received further advice from the headteacher we will ensure that all qualifying catchment P7 pupils, including those from Taobh na Pairce, are able to attend James Gillespie’s High School for the August 2016-17 session.

“Also given the pressures on Gillespie’s in future years, due to their rising school roll and other factors, we will also consult on arrangements for secondary Gaelic-medium education from August 2017.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com