Friday, December 16, 2005

Morar loses Gaelic Unit to Mallaig

Residents of a Lochaber village fear that their school could be in line for closure after it loses its Gaelic medium unit.

Councillors at Highland Council’s Lochaber area Committee this week voted to transfer the Gaelic unit at Lady Lovat Primary School to Mallaig, three mile away, because it has outgrown the Morar School.

There were claims that the community could be divided over the issue after a prolonged debate throughout this year.

Mallaig and Morar councillor Charles King said: I think it has been a long, hard nine months. There will be parents who will be dissatisfied, but there was a general acceptance that the Gaelic unit had to be kept intact. ‘There are presently 37 Gaelic medium pupils at Lady Lovat which has a school roll of 50.

The 13 English medium students will continue in Morar but there are fears for its future if the roll falls below 11, as it is expected to do in four years.

Councillor Michael Foxley, who was involved in establishing the Gaelic unit in Morar in 1993, said:’ it’s very sad. It has been a success and it is a tribute to the head teacher, Maureen Sutherland. I fully understand the move to Mallaig but I have for Morar in the future.’

Councillor Olwyn MacDonald said: ‘I think it is very sad, it is down to a shortage of money but it is the only way forward that we can go.’

Parent Anne MacNaughton said: ‘some parents have children in the Gaelic unit as well as the English. But the Gaelic unit doesn’t want to split. It’s a hard decision.’

A spokesman for Comann nam Parant, a group of Gaelic Medium parents in Morar, said ‘although we are glad they have taken the option not to split the unit, we feel that Gaelic medium is being treated as less important than English medium education. We were assured that the decision would not be taken on cost, but they have taken the cheapest option.

In three years’ time the school roll in Morar will go down to six pupils. Once they have taken the children out of Lady Lovat they have a free hand to close the school.

A final decision on the transfer of the unit will be taken at a meeting of Highland Council in January 2006.

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