Capital’s first Gaelic school finally gets go-ahead

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By a Newsnet reporter

Edinburgh’s first dedicated Gaelic school has finally been given the go-ahead following delays over financing the reopening of the old closed down Bonnington Primary School.

The school had been lying empty since December 2008 and had fallen into a serious state of disrepair due to weather and vandalism – causing renovation costs to vastly exceed initial projections.

Following months of discussions, the Scottish Government has agreed to contribute £1.8m to help finance the dedicated school and councillors voted to go ahead with the required £3.5 million renovation and refurbishment.  The school, which is based in Leith, will be the Capital’s first all-Gaelic primary school from 2013.

On top of the £1.8m of capital funding, the Scottish Government will provide a further £100,000 additional annual revenue funding, enabling the council to provide another £1.275m through prudential borrowing.  Edinburgh council is also funding the remaining £455,000 of the total £3.53m of capital required as well as the ongoing costs associated with running the new school.

All political parties agreed on the council officials’ proposals to create the city’s first Gaelic school – the motion was passed without debate.

Currently Gaelic Medium education (GME) is available at Tollcross primary school for 156 pupils in primary as well as 65 in nursery and demand is such that Tollcross has reached full capacity.  Pupils will move from Tollcross GME primary to the new Bonnington Primary School – the Tollcross GME unit will be closed.

Education chiefs first began considering Bonnington Primary School as a possible dedicated Gaelic primary school when it became apparent that a large and increasing demand from Edinburgh parents for Gaelic primary education was present and rapidly increasing.

Alasdair Cameron, of parent group Comann nam Parant, said: “It is interesting when people understand the quality of education at Tollcross and the number of nationalities represented at one school – people of all walks of life and nationalities get a first-class education, and a bilingual education, and we should be proud of that.”

City Education Leader, councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “The Gaelic community felt it was important for this to happen and the increases over the years in parents wanting their children to go to Tollcross mean we have a pressure to address.”

“The Council’s decision to go ahead with a dedicated primary Gaelic school, has demonstrated our commitment to investing in young people and communities, during this restrictive economic situation. Assuming that consent is granted by the Scottish Government, we will be able to move on with quickly progressing work on site to be ready for the first pupils in 2013.”

“We will make the transition to the new Gaelic school as smooth as possible and are we confident that Tollcross Primary will continue to thrive and be a very successful mainstream school within its expanded space once Gaelic pupils have moved.”

Minister for Gaelic Alasdair Allan said: “Edinburgh parents have clearly demonstrated their desire for a new Gaelic school in the city, with the existing facilities at Tollcross no longer suitable. This is an important day for the education of their children.”

It is intended that the new Gaelic school will open in August 2013.  Edinburgh Council estimates that with demand continually rising, by 2017-18 there could be 300 pupils in Bonnington Primary Gaelic School.