Friday, 23 March 2012

A Tale of Two Schools

The Belfast Telegraph reports on the closure of Ballykeigle Primary near Comber, whose school roll had fallen to fewer than 40 pupils. As part of rescue efforts, the Ulster-Scots Agency had been interested in creating the first specialist primary to place "Ulster-Scots culture and heritage" centre-stage.

Over the water, meanwhile, Glasgow Gaelic School has secured a £200,000 grant to cater for its ever-increasing numbers of students.

It could be argued that it's unfair to compare apples with oranges in this way — until one considers that it is just that trap into which the Ulster-Scots Agency may be falling.

The success of Irish-medium education can easily translate across the Irish border and, as we have seen in this case, to Gaelic in Scotland too. What doesn't work so well is attempting to create a Protestant version of Irish-medium education, particularly one in which language plays second fiddle to broader — or, indeed, narrower — cultural concerns.

Of course, the Ulster-Scots angle in the story may be a minor and misleading one. The teachers and parents will no doubt have been desperate to save their school by entertaining any scheme that held out that prospect. The Agency, however, would do better to concentrate on diffusing the dialect more widely among adults, many of whom will find Ulster-Scots literature hard to access, and some of whom may even doubt that it is still spoken at all.

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