Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:01 UK

Call to protect Gaelic education

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Mr Allan said the teaching of Gaelic was growing

The contribution of schools that teach Gaelic should be considered when deciding if they should close, according to an islands MSP

Alasdair Allan wants the impact on Gaelic education to be considered as part of the consultation process on closure proposals.

The Western Isles MSP has tabled amendments to the Scottish Government's Schools (Consultation) Bill.

The bill lays out new procedures that must be followed before schools close.

Mr Allan said he hoped to get cross party support for the amendments which will be heard by the Scottish Parliament's education, lifelong learning and culture committee next Wednesday.

Gaelic education is growing, but could fall victim to closures
Alasdair Allan
Western Isles MSP

He said: "Where schools are offering Gaelic medium or Gaelic education, I believe local authorities should have to consider the potential impact on Gaelic education in that area when a school is proposed for closure.

"This issue was raised by a number of people in response to the draft bill and this amendment will ensure Gaelic provision is properly considered.

"Gaelic education is growing, but could fall victim to closures if it isn't one of the factors taken into account when decided whether a school has to close."

The proposed legislation would toughen the consultation procedures which councils must follow when proposing any major education changes.

The Scottish government said the move would protect small, fragile local economies and communities.

The legislation would require local authorities to publish and advertise detailed proposals on any major changes to education provision, and hold a consultation for a minimum of six weeks of term time - although these would not need to run consecutively.

Education inspectors would also have to give their views on changes, while pupils and teachers would get more of a say.

A report on the proposals would then have to be released, with a block on councils being able to make their final decision until at least three weeks after its publication.

Ministers also want to put the decision-making process over school closures firmly in the hands of local authorities.

The bill would replace the need for certain council decisions to be referred to the government, with a ministerial power to call them in where local authorities fail to comply with the legislation.

A total of 41% of of primary and 23% of secondary schools in Scotland are classed as rural.

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