Liberton High could be rebuilt on dual campus with new Gaelic school

Plans are set to be pushed forward to replace the ageing Liberton High buildings on a dual campus with a new Gaelic secondary school

The council wants to rebuild Liberton High on a joint campus with a new Gaelic school. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The council wants to rebuild Liberton High on a joint campus with a new Gaelic school. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Council chiefs are set to push forward “long overdue” proposals to rebuild Liberton High – which could see a dual campus built including a dedicated Gaelic secondary school.

Officials from Edinburgh City Council presented their plans to move the Gaelic medium education (GME) unit from its current base at James Gillespie’s High, to parents on Wednesday – with the Liberton option seen as the most viable way forward.

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The council believes that the dual campus with Liberton High is the only deliverable option that is in line with the Scottish Government’s learning estate strategy – but it’s expected to carry a price-tag of around £75m. It’s hoped the new dual campus could open its doors in 2024. Current GME staff based at James Gillespie’s High are supportive of the Liberton proposals.

The authority will have to fork out capital costs for the project, expected to be included in next month’s budget – and there’s no guarantee the Scottish Government will financially support the dual campus.

Cllr Alison Dickie, the council’s Gaelic Champion, said : “Wednesday night was an opportunity for parents to hear about the scope around the different options for a new high school, and the preferred proposals of officers based on a range of criteria.

“I look forward to hearing the thoughts of parents and the wider Gaelic community as we continue to move forward together.”

In April 2014, 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett was killed when a wall collapsed on top of her at Liberton High. Parents say they were given assurances by the council that the school would be rebuilt – but 18 months ago, they accused the authority of a “sticking plaster approach”.

Labour Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson has previously campaigned for a new Liberton High to be prioritised.

He said: “This is welcome news that at long last, the council is bringing forward plans for a new Liberton High School. This 1950s building has been overdue for replacement – so I look forward to seeing the full details of capital investment and plans from the council.

“Dual campuses have been a successful model across Scotland and I’m sure we can all agree that having a new dedicated Gaelic medium education high school will be of great benefit for the children going through Gaelic medium education.”

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“For too long, Liberton High has been overlooked for a replacement school building and that must change and we must see action taken to deliver the new building.”

The representative group for families with GME pupils in Edinburgh has stressed the importance to be consulted throughout the process.

In a statement, Comann nam Pàrant Dhùn Èideann, said: “Comann nam Pàrant Dhùn Èideann supports the building of a new secondary and second primary school in the city to meet the growing demand for Gaelic medium education.

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“It’s in everyone’s interest that we get it right. As such, it is important to give parents the opportunity to look at the information available to us and agree a way forward.”

Cllr Mary Campbell, Green education spokesperson, said: “Greens want to support the development of Gaelic in Scotland’s capital city, and it’s clear that won’t happen in the longer term if Gaelic Medium Education at Secondary level remains at James Gillespie’s.

“A permanent home for Gaelic learning at secondary must be found. It’s essential that the agreed site must support the development of the Gaelic language, should minimise unnecessary travel to school and should have the support of Gaelic parents.”