Plans for Edinburgh Gaelic secondary school due for formal consultation next year

Education chiefs plan to launch a formal consultation on a Gaelic secondary school for Edinburgh, offering parents a choice of a stand-alone school on the site for the former Royal Victoria Hospital or a joint campus with a new Liberton High School.

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The consultation would also cover proposals for two new Gaelic primary units in the south-east and west of the city to complement the existing Gaelic primary school in Leith.

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The education committee agreed to hold a special meeting in January to approve details of the statutory consultation, which would run from January 31 to March 18, preceded by informal consultation during December and January.

The former Royal Victoria Hospital site could house the new school if the Scottish Government comes up with funding.

The move comes despite a plea from Gaelic parents not to embark on a formal consultation at this stage.

They pointed to the uncertainty over the Scottish Government' s position given the SNP's manifesto commitment at the Holyrood elections to a stand-alone Gaelic secondary in central Edinburgh and continuing discussions between the council and ministers on the issue.

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In a written submission to the education committee, Comann nam Parant, the Gaelic parents' association, said families of Gaelic-medium education (GME) pupils needed "to fully understand the breadth of curriculum offered at each site, how this would be delivered in practice and the plans for staffing".

The council wrote to Education Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville last month, saying that if the Royal Victoria option was to go ahead the government would have to transfer the site to the council at no cost and provide £20-25m funding for the new school.

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The council's preferred option is a joint campus with a new Liberton High School.

A report to the committee said: "If the Scottish Government do not confirm the former Royal Victoria Hospital site is available, then the statutory consultation paper will include an option for a stand-alone GME secondary facility on the existing Castlebrae High School site in Craigmillar."

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Green councillor Claire Miller said the government was asking the council for more information about the Royal Victoria plans. She said: “It doesn’t seem it would be possible to go ahead with the statutory consultation without the option of the Royal Victoria being bottomed out with the Scottish Government. The key ask for us is that officers continue to engage with the Scottish Government to provide the information they need to inform their decision over financial support and provision of land.”

She said the Greens were nervous about rushing ahead with an informal consultation over the Christmas holidays and rushing into a statutory consultation if there was not enough information available. And she said as long as a statutory consultation was completed by July 2022, a co-located school could still be delivered by 2025 or a stand-alone one by 2027.

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Education convener Ian Perry disputed the claim of being rushed. “We have been three years at this, talking with parents,” he said. “They know exactly what’s on offer here. The only issue is where the new Gaelic school is going to be placed. Whether it’s co-located or stand-alone, the education provided will be exactly the same.”

And he said to delay the consultation till after the May elections would create uncertainty.

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The council’s preferred option is the joint campus at Liberton, but a survey two years ago found most parents of Gaelic pupils opposed that proposal.

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