Education boss is accused of bias over Gaelic growth

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THE national Gaelic body has called for Edinburgh’s education leader to be removed from her role of looking at the future of the language in city schools, claiming she is already biased against it.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national development agency for the language, said it had concerns about Councillor Marilyne MacLaren’s “neutrality on Gaelic matters” following comments made by her during an education committee meeting where she apparently talked about Gaelic Medium Education leading to “segregation”. The city council is currently consulting with the public on how best to provide education for growing numbers of Gaelic-speaking primary children.

Two options have been put forward – the creation of a dedicated Gaelic school in the old Bonnington Primary or the expansion of the existing GME unit within Tollcross Primary.

As part of the overall review, council bosses are also looking at moving the GME unit at secondary level away from James Gillespie’s High to Tynecastle High, which has more space for increased numbers.

A working group has been set up specifically to look at this issue, headed by Cllr MacLaren.

But in a letter to education director Gillian Tee, Arthur Cormack, head of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, called for a “more neutral chair for the working group”.

Mr Cormack said: “Her comments fail to recognise that the City of Edinburgh Council finds itself in the position of deciding on the future of GME because of the runaway success of the Tollcross Gaelic medium unit.”

He added that Bòrd na Gàidhlig supports the creation of a dedicated Gaelic school in Edinburgh and said he hoped people are not deterred from giving their views because of the “complex, inconsistent and incoherent” consultation papers.

However, Cllr MacLaren strongly denies saying that GME leads to segregation.

She said: “This has been misquoted. All I said is that people have come to me and asked whether a standalone school would be segregating children.

“The Gaelic parents have strong reasons for saying separating the children is not a bad thing while other members of the community have come to me and said it is a bad thing.

“All I’m saying is that we need to have a debate about it.”

Cllr Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman, said: “We have to consider the issue carefully and I welcome that a working group has been set up.”

Gillian Tee, director of education, children and families, added: “The membership of the cross-party working group was approved by the education, children and families committee and I’m confident that it is well equipped to consider the full range of views.”

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