The parents who successfully campaigned against the reorganisation of junior Gaelic Medium classes at Stornoway Primary have thanked everyone who helped their cause.
The protest focused on the class going into GM2 (primary 2). This class, of 22 children, had been hailed as a great result for Gaelic Medium Education as it was the first GME intake for Stornoway Primary that was big enough to stand alone, without being combined with the class above.
The new intake, for the 2018/19 session, was also big enough to run as a straight P1 year group.
However, two days before school broke up for the holidays, children from GM1 going into GM2 reported to their parents that they were being split up, with six from their class being put into the class with the new GM1 intake.
This was said to be result of a local authority policy to ‘keep capacity’ in all classes, should new pupils enrol at the school, as it allowed them to even out the numbers of pupils across the years.
In a bid to get the Comhairle to change its mind, the parents enlisted the help of MSP Alasdair Allan, Bòrd na Gàidhlig chief executive Shona MacLennan and Magaidh Wentworth of Comann nam Parant, the national organisation representing the interests of parents whose children are in Gaelic Medium Education.
A number of parents also lodged formal complaints with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar over the plans and also the lack of communication.
They also enlisted the help of council leader Roddie Mackay and, at the eleventh hour, around 5pm on Wednesday, August 15 – the afternoon before the school went back – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “Dear Parents. Following discussions about the composition of classes for next session, it has been agreed that all new GM1 pupils will form one class, all GM2 pupils will form one class and all GM3 pupils will be part of the composite GM3/4 class.”
The announcement was met with delight by the parents, although there was some consternation at how long the Comhairle had taken to resolve the matter.
In a statement yesterday (Tuesday August 21) the parents said: “We were delighted that common sense prevailed in this matter. It really was an amazing result and although it was primarily a victory for parent power we also want to thank all those who helped us.
“We couldn’t have done it without strong support from MSP Alasdair Allan, Magaidh Wentworth of Comann nam Parant and Shona MacLennan from Bòrd na Gàidhlig. We are also very grateful to council leader Roddie Mackay for his intervention.
“This was never about composite classes. We understand that these are often necessary and are not questioning that principle.
“This was about a small number of children being separated from the majority of their peer group and their social and educational development suffering as a result.
“We know there is an issue with capacity at Stornoway Primary, which could become problematic if more pupils come into the school – but it would have been wrong for the scenario planning to take priority over the wellbeing of enrolled children and that is why we campaigned so hard.
“There is clearly a problem with capacity at Stornoway Primary and we hope that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Education Director will also, in due course, address that openly and honestly.”
In a statement, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar confirmed that parent power was the reason for the U-turn on class arrangements. It said: “The School and the Department, whilst recognising that there may be future challenges as to class numbers arising from these proposals, believes that for all concerned this is the best way to proceed and we look forward to pupils, staff and parents continuing to support the School and maintain the highest possible standards of education in Stornoway Primary.