Aberdeen pupils who want to learn in Gaelic could face a “postcode lottery” if plans for a catchment area are imposed, it has been claimed.
Students from all over the city have been able to access Gaelic Medium Education (GME) at two schools since the 1990s, regardless of where they lived.
But now, Aberdeen City Council has launched a consultation into proposed catchment areas for GME.
It means those outwith the zones will have to apply for a place at Gilcomstoun School or Hazlehead Academy.
Officials say the application will be a formality and expect everyone who wants GME to be given a place.
But one councillor warned access could become a “postcode lottery” under the proposed shake-up.
Parents have less than seven weeks to have their say.
Now Aberdeen City Council is seeking to confirm which areas of the city will make up the zones for GME provision at the two schools.
The existing catchment zones for English medium education at these schools will remain unaffected.
The council must first carry out a consultation with parents of those attending the schools, or those likely to attend in the next two years.
Letters sent out to parents about plans
To that end, the local authority has written to parents and carers inviting them to comment on the proposals.
The consultation process, which started on Monday, includes three proposals.
Firstly, to establish a catchment area for the existing GME education at Hazlehead Academy.
This will overlay the existing English medium catchment areas for Hazlehead Academy, Northfield Academy and Aberdeen Grammar School.
Secondly, to establish a catchment area for the existing GME provision at Gilcomstoun School.
This will overlay the existing English medium catchment areas for Gilcomstoun School, Ashley Road School, Mile End School and Skene Square School.
And finally, that the new catchment areas should take effect from August 1, 2022.
The consultation process will conclude on October 8, 2021.
Fears over education by ‘postcode lottery’
According to council papers, creating catchment areas will help with budgeting for student transport to and from school and should not have any effect on who can attend.
But members of the council’s education operational delivery committee and other councillors have expressed concerns that the proposed area is too restrictive and should instead cover the entire city.
Councillor Martin Greig is concerned that excluding parts of the city from the catchment areas might make GME seem inaccessible to some families.
He warned the council was in danger of creating education by “postcode lottery”.
“I opposed carrying out a public consultation,” said Mr Greig.
“It’s inappropriate to ration out education provision based on where you live.
“Some communities will have more direct access to one area of specialised education than others.
“Those living outside the catchment area will not be prioritised.
“That’s not a good model, it’s not appropriate to discriminate against pupils based on where they live.
“It’s an unwelcome development, to divide up the city like this. It’s a slippery slope.
“The education you get should not be based on a postcode lottery.”
‘Children are going to be excluded’
“I hope as many people as possible take part in the public consultation.
“But it’s a relatively specialised subject, and it’s probably not reasonable to expect a large number of responses.
“But every comment will be welcome.
“I just think that in future years, parents outside the catchment area are going to find their children are being excluded.
“By then, it’ll be too late.”
Views about the proposals can be submitted at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/schoolsconsultations
A public consultation meeting to discuss the proposals will be held on September 14 at Mile End School at 7pm.