AN AMENDMENT BY a Highlands and Islands MSP has ensured that any local authority receiving a “reasonable” request to teach Gaelic will need to take action.
The move came this week at the Scottish Parliament and means that Moray, where there is currently no provision for providing Gaelic-medium primary education, could find its schools having to do so.
All Scottish Local Authorities will now be obliged to provide such education “on request” unless they can show it would be unreasonable for them to do so – what remains unclear is what would be deemed as ‘unreasonable’.
Mr Finnie said: “I am delighted my amendment has passed. It will make it far harder for Councils to reject requests for Gaelic-medium primary education out of hand, and make it much easier for parents to make an appeal if they do.
“The original draft of the Education Bill was weak on this point because it allowed Councils to turn down requests merely because they considered them to be unreasonable.
“My amendment means that only requests that are unreasonable by an objective standard – not just the Council’s say-so – can be turned down. It is 17 years since an additional local authority began to offer Gaelic-medium education —that was Stirling Council—and quite a few authorities have a poor record.
“Many parents feel that their Councils simply are not taking requests for Gaelic schooling seriously – this change will mean that they will have to. In the long run I would like to see all schoolchildren having an absolute right to Gaelic-medium education.
“We’re not there yet, but this change gets us a step closer to that goal of Gaelic education for all who want it.”
The Education (Scotland) Bill as a whole was approved unanimously by MSPs – it can be viewed online.