Pupil roll at Edinburgh’s Gaelic school set to treble

The uptake of Gaelic at James Gillespie's is expected to soar.''Picture: Neil Hanna
The uptake of Gaelic at James Gillespie's is expected to soar.''Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE number of students on the Gaelic pupil roll at the Capital’s dedicated high school for the language is expected to treble over the next seven years, latest figures reveal.

A draft plan – published by the council for public consultation – shows the projected Gaelic pupil roll at James Gillespie’s High School is set to jump from the 88 in 2016-17 to 271 in 2023-24.

Members of the public have until December 15 to have their say on the future of Gaelic in the Capital as city leaders unveiled their vision in the second ‘Draft Gaelic Language Plan’.

The document outlines six strategic themes and commitments across home and early years, education, community, workplace, culture/arts/heritage and economy.

Since opening the primary school’s numbers have increased every year, with 299 pupils on the roll for 2016-17.

Expansion of the school’s capacity is included in the draft plans, while the option of a dedicated Gaelic secondary school to complement it is also being considered.

Lewis Ritchie, the council’s Gaelic champion, said the language was a “unique and essential feature of Scotland’s rich cultural tapestry”.

He said: “I am incredibly proud of the commitment that the council continues to demonstrate towards Gaelic language and culture.

“We have made great strides since our last Gaelic Language Plan delivering a new GME [Gaelic Medium Education] primary school and expanding Gaelic learning across our schools.

“We have also worked hard to foster a stronger relationship with the Gaelic community, indeed, without the tireless efforts of the Gaelic Language Plan co-production group this plan would not have been possible.

“However, the position of Gaelic and everything we have achieved so far remains extremely fragile – we must redouble our efforts and continue our commitment if we are to build on the success we have enjoyed.”

The council’s previous language plan resulted in the construction of new GME primary school Taobh na Pàirce, which opened in Bonnington in 2013 and feeds into James Gillespie’s.

Mary Campbell, education spokesperson for the Edinburgh Greens, said she welcomed the draft plan and urged residents to have their say.

She said: “As Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh has a long connection to Gaelic going back at least to the sixteenth century.

“It’s a vital part of our heritage, and should be nurtured and developed, through expanding Gaelic education, but also by making the language more visible in the council’s communications.

“I encourage everyone to respond to the council’s draft Gaelic plan to help identify how best to support Scotland’s language in Scotland’s capital city.”