A FLAGSHIP gaelic school is set to appoint a new headteacher – who is from Sweden and does not speak gaelic.
Angry parents have criticised Highland Council after they decided to waive the mandatory condition that applicants for the post must be gaelic speakers.
Annika Jansson, who has been the acting head at the primary in Inverness, is now poised to take the top job and a salary of £48,000-a-year.
Critics of the likely appointment branded it as “ridiculous” and said it underlined the “futility” of the Scottish Government’s gaelic programme.
Bunsgoil Ghaidhlig Inbhir Nis – which translates as Bunsgoil Gaelic, Inverness – caters for 155 pupils and 70 nursery children. It cost £4m to build and opened five years ago.
Highland Council recently readvertised the head’s job, and dropped the language requirement, after failing to fill the post.
Ms Jansson, who joined the school in August 2010 is understood to be the sole candidate for the post, has an interview lined up on Monday.
Catherine Dickson, a former teacher at the school, said: “She [Ms Jansson] has been in the post for over two years.
“During the school day, pupils and staff are encouraged to speak in English when addressing the acting head-teacher.
“This goes completely against the Gaelic ethos the Highland Council have promised to preserve.”
Jim Crawford, an independent Inverness councillor, said: “To have a head teacher from Sweden in a Gaelic speaking school in the Highland Capital underlines the futility of the Gaelic programme.
“It’s outrageous, especially at a time when ordinary schools are considering cutting back to a four day week to save money.
“But it seems we’ll spend money on Gaelic willy nilly.
“It’s 100 per cent failed attempt by SNP to make us vote SNP. We’re all suppose to feel Scottish when we’re driving round the country side reading bilingual signs.
“The language was dead and Alex Salmond saw mileage in re-erecting it. Every council now has to spend money they don’t have on these bilingual signs. It’s ridiculous.”
But support for the school in the area is strong and campaigners want the council to keep looking for a gaelic speaker.
Dawn Morgan, chairwoman of the parent group, said: “Surely Highland Council could run an imaginative recruitment campaign that reaches into the wider Gaelic community.
“Council adverts have been in obscure locations that the council have been unwilling or unable to reveal and for short application periods – no wonder few heard about them in time.”
John Angus MacKay, head of Bord na Gaidhlig, the government’s advisory body, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that [we] want to see every Gaelic school run by Gaelic-speaking staff.
“But we are in a position that the means to that end are not always available and we have to work with others to create them.”
Alasdair Christie, chairman of the council’s adult and children’s services, justified Ms Jansson’s likely appointment on the grounds that her job is “managerial”.
He said: “The recruitment for the Gaelic school has been a difficult process and the post has been advertised many times in the past few years to try and attract suitable applicants.
“The head teacher is not a class-facing role – it is a managerial role.
“If a non-fluent Gaelic-speaking head teacher is appointed the council will put in place measures and processes to ensure the school continues to have the correct ethos.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment during an ongoing interview situation.
“But no decision has been made – Ms Jansson has not even had her interview yet.
“That will be up for the panel to decide.”
It is hoped Bunsgoil would lead to similar schools being built in Fort William and Portree, Skye.
But at the last census it was revealed that Scotland has just over 59,000 gaelic speakers, a decline of almost 7,000 in a decade.
Government spending on gaelic education has soared, increasing from £19.2million in 2009/10 to £21.7million in 2010–11.
And a gaelic school – Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce – is due to open in Edinburgh next August.
In June this year the government also came under fire for spending taxpayers’ cash on translating road signs into gaelic – even in areas where it is not widely spoken