A fair consultation and not a rubber stamping exercise needed for exemptions from learning Irish

Conradh na Gaeilge calls on the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, TD to cancel the current consultation on exemptions now and to replace it with a new and fair consultation

Conradh na Gaeilge are calling on the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, TD to cancel the current unsatisfactory consultation on the system for granting exemptions from the learning of Irish and in its place to set up a fair consultation. The consultation is unsatisfactory for the following reasons:

  • There is not sufficient time for the public to take part in it.

The consultation was not announced until 5.00p.m. on Friday, 7th of December, and it is to end on the 11th of January. It can be assumed that interested parties (such as school principals, students, parents, etc..) are busy in the run up to Christmas and they will only have 5 school days to take part in survey when they return from the Christmas holidays. Also, it is uncertain how many people are even aware that the consultation is actually taking place.

  • The research carried out by the Inspectorate, which was released at the same time as the consultation paper, was not satisfactorily reflected in the consultation paper or in the new draft circulars.

For example, it is stated on page 75 of the research: ‘NEPS psychologists emphasise the benefits of learning a second language. An overarching message in light of this is the need for caution around excluding learners with special educational needs, and also pupils / students learning English as an additional language, from the opportunity to learn a second language in light of increased inclusive practice in schools, curricular changes and a move toward integrated language learning. Existing research cited by NEPS also appears to question the wisdom of exempting students with SEN from learning a second language.’  This recommendation is not reflected in the new proposed circulars.

  • The consultation itself and the method for gathering opinions by the on-line survey is extremely limited; and there is only the on-line survey available to take part in the consultation

The on-line survey seems to limit people to the draft circulars only that the Department has put together. There is no place to suggest new methods that would, for example, reduce the need for exemptions in the future. 

Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said:
“It is a great pity that the Department of Education and Skills has established an unsatisfactory rushed consultation in relation to the system of exemptions, 15 years after they first announced that they would carry out such a review, at the worst time of the year. We are of the opinion that the outcome of this consultation is already decided and that this is not a reasonable attempt to discuss the exemptions, to weigh up the various options and to agree a new fairer system in place of the current unsatisfactory system. It seems that the Department of Education and Skills is following a Twitter type of process and limiting answers in Section 2 of the survey to 120 words. This is an insult to anyone who has recommendations to improve the system. And, FYI, there are 149 words in my quote here, 29 more than the Department’s limits.” 

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said:
“Conradh na Gaeilge has suggestions on ways to remove the need for exemptions for students entering the schooling system late and that would also reduce the pressure on students who are weak at learning languages  but there is nowhere in the survey to include these recommendations, especially as the survey is based only on the draft circulars included in the consultation document prepared by the Department of Education and Skills. The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, TD should cancel the current consultation and establish a fair consultation after Christmas.”

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge