WORK is set to get under way on the city’s first Gaelic school, being created to meet “soaring demand” for Gaelic-medium education in the Capital.
Councillors agreed the £3.5 million redevelopment of the former Bonnington Primary School in Leith last year, which will house the Capital’s first all-Gaelic primary.
The dedicated school is expected to be completed in June next year, with work set to start next month. The refurbishment of the Grade C-listed building will include upgrading existing play areas, replacing toilets and replacing wall and ceiling finishes.
Pupils will be moved from the current Gaelic Medium Education unit at Tollcross Primary to the new facility, and the unit will be closed.
The chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, John Angus MacKay, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig has consistently supported the campaign for a standalone Gaelic school in Edinburgh. We believe Gaelic schools are essential to growing the numbers of pupils in Gaelic education, offering additional opportunities to use the language in the whole school.
“The two Gaelic schools already established have been extremely successful and we are confident that Bonnington will be a huge success and also meet the soaring demand for Gaelic-medium education in Edinburgh.”
Last October, the Evening News told how the cost of bringing the school back into use had jumped dramatically due to the condition of the building, which has been lying empty since December 2008.
In 2010, councillors were told the project would cost just £600,000, but the costs soared as a result of vandalism and roof and water damage.
Following months of discussions with the Scottish Government, which supports the dedicated school, it agreed to contribute £1.8m.
The city’s education leader Paul Godzik said: “I’m pleased that we are making good progress on the project.”
The move to create the city’s first Gaelic school was passed without debate in October 2011 after all political groups agreed on the proposals from council officials. Gaelic campaigners and parent groups had earlier urged councillors to approve the plan.
Education spokesman for the Lib Dems, Alastair Shields, said: “The council and the Scottish Government have co-operated well to see this project through and it will hopefully prove its worth for many years to come.”
As well as the £1.8m of capital funding, the Scottish Government will provide a further £100,000 of annual funding, allowing the council to provide another £1.27m through borrowing. The council will also fund the remaining £455,000 of the total £3.53m of capital funding needed and the ongoing costs associated with running the new school.
Education chiefs first started looking at the future of Gaelic provision in the city after it emerged there had been a large increase in the number of pupils learning the language in recent years.