Questions & Answers
As Gaelic gains more prominence in Scotland, especially with its secure status now guaranteed in law for the first time under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act of 2005, opportunities for Gaelic speakers will increase. This is especially true in areas such as education, business, media and the arts, where employers have a high expectation of fluency in the language. As schools such as those recently set up in Inverness and Glasgow show, a Gaelic school can give this.
Highland Council’s Education, Culture & Sport Committee has started a consultation on a Gaelic School for Portree which will give everyone the opportunity to contribute their views on the creation of such a school. Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh are supportive of such a primary school, and wish to take this opportunity to answer some of the early questions that have been asked about a Gaelic School for Portree.
Why should we have a Gaelic Primary School in Portree?
The consultation that Highland Council is carrying out this year is for a Gaelic School for the communities currently served by the Gaelic medium provision at Portree Primary School. English-medium schooling will still be available as at present. Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh feel strongly that such a school will meet the needs of a significant number of families in the area to be served, and acknowledge Highland Council’s obligations in this respect. Gaelic-medium departments in other areas of Skye should not be affected.
Will a Gaelic School have any disadvantages in Portree?
No. The current Portree Primary School will be available to English-medium children. This differs from the situation at the Consultation in Sleat in 2006, for example, where a Gaelic-only School there would have resulted in some English medium pupils having a long daily journey to Broadford Primary. In Portree, a Gaelic School would increase choice for parents and not involve children travelling greater distances to school.
Does a Gaelic School mean that children will have a total immersion approach to their education through the Gaelic language?
No. Scotland has not adopted a total immersion approach to the Gaelic language, therefore English is also taught as a subject. The benefits of a Gaelic School are through improved fluency and confidence by offering pupils more diverse opportunities for language usage.
Will attending a Gaelic School mean that children will not be able to speak English, or will not be taught English?
No. As stated in the previous answer, children will be taught English alongside Gaelic and it is an established fact that putting children through a Gaelic-medium education (or any minority language education) does not affect their ability in English (or the dominant language in other minority language settings) given the strength and prevalence of the English language in everyday life. In fact, studies have shown that children perform better in school as a result of being bilingual.
How will children and their parents from non-Gaelic speaking homes be supported by a Gaelic School?
It is hoped that a Gaelic hub can be developed alongside the school itself to create a facility which will accommodate all Gaelic activities in the Portree area, including Gaelic classes for parents in a supportive Gaelic environment allowing for better social interaction through the language, particularly for those learning the language. The school would be part of the community and would work with all groups and individuals to promote the Gaelic language and culture.
Where will the funding come from for a Gaelic School?
The Scottish Government has funding available for Gaelic capital projects nationally which Highland Council could bid for to contribute towards the building costs of a Gaelic School.
Will a Gaelic School be run by The Highland Council?
Yes. The same high quality of education that would be expected of any school in Highland would be available in a Gaelic School, operated by the Council. A Gaelic School would face the same Inspection and Quality Assurance procedures as every other school.
Why is high school provision not being considered as part of the consultation?
Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh see a Gaelic High School as a longer-term aim and would like to see a ‘Centre of Excellence for Gaelic’ developed in Portree to strengthen the existing provision of Gaelic being taught at Portree High School. This would also allow time for human and educational resources to be developed to support a stand-alone Gaelic High School in the future.
How, exactly, are parents being consulted by Highland Council on a Gaelic School?
The consultation has now commenced. As stated by Laurence Young, Senior Education Officer for the area that includes Skye, in his paper which the Council’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee approved on 7th August 2008, the full Consultation paper will be available to all parents who may be affected, including parents of pre-school pupils, and there will be a Public Meeting in Portree on 24th September which all will be invited to attend. The Council has also said that it welcomes any submissions in writing, which may be made to the Education Office, Elgin Hostel, Portree, Skye.
How will a Gaelic School in Portree link up with other groups in the community?
Like every other school, the Portree Gaelic School will work with all groups in the community.
Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh believes that a Gaelic school in Portree is simply the next logical step in the development of Gaelic-medium education, offering a better chance for pupils to be more fluent in Gaelic in more situations.
Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh was formed after an informal meeting was held to establish if there was support amongst the parents of Gaelic Medium children for a Gaelic School. There was sufficient support after which a public meeting was held to establish such a parent group. Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh plan to provide factual information on Gaelic Medium Education and Gaelic Schools to assist parents make an informed decision on whether they are in favour of a Gaelic School.