Rise in Falkirk district families considering Gaelic medium education
Future demand for Gaelic education in Falkirk could be much higher than previously thought, a survey of parents has revealed.
Falkirk Council’s questionnaire to parents who currently have three-year-olds at nursery found that 65 parents would consider sending their children to Gaelic medium education if Falkirk had a school for them to attend.
And 31 of them would still be interested in Gaelic medium education if it meant their child travelling to another authority, as currently happens.
The results were a surprise to education chiefs, as the number of children currently being educated in Gaelic have stood at around 20 pupils – spanning the year groups from Primary 1 to S6 – for several years, with only minimal change.
Members of the Education, Children and Young People executive were told that the survey was sent to 885 people and 170 responded.
Of those who did return them, 66 per cent already have a child at school in Falkirk.
Robert Naylor, the director of Children’s Services, now wants to find out how serious the parents who have expressed an interest are in Gaelic medium education (GME).
He intends to hold a seminar for all those who said they would consider GME giving them more details about what would be involved.
He said: “We would have to ask if they realise that in all other local authorities, with the exception of the Western Isles, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gaelic medium education is provided from one single establishment.
“So, do they know they could be signing up to putting their child in a taxi every day, taking them away from their peer group?”
SNP councillor Laura Murtagh said she was “glè thoilichte” – very happy – to see the report on the agenda.
And she asked that all parents in the year group that had originally been given questionnaires be invited to the seminar – not just those who had already expressed an interest.
She said: “The consultation didn’t present the many positive aspects of Gaelic education.
“The evidence is there that GME is an opportunity for improvement, with many long term cognitive benefits for children who are bilingual.
“We should also look at it from an attainment point of view. It would be remiss in our duty as a committee not to consider that.
“Gaelic is a thriving and growing language in our community,” she said, pointing out that 13 new people had recently joined a Gaelic class she attends, who were “not just hillwalkers and musicians”.
Labour councillor Joan Coombes was sceptical that the demand was really there – pointing out that only two families had chosen to send their children to GME last year.
Conservative group leader Lynn Munro asked if this opportunity was given to “other minority subjects” while religious representative Reverend Rollo said he wished more attention was paid to another Scottish language, Doric.
But they were told that Gaelic had a special status. Thanks to a law passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2005, every local authority now has to have a Gaelic language plan.
In 2016, the SNP government took it a step further making it compulsory for local authorities to promote Gaelic medium education.
The Education, Children and Young People executive agreed that parents should be consulted further and a report brought back.