The Minister for Education and Skills has missed an opportunity to implement a more inclusive system regarding exemptions from learning Irish

News Release | 12 August 2019

Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Minister for Education and Skills to develop a policy for the teaching of Irish from pre-school to university without further delay which would deal with the question of exemptions and other matters relating to the teaching of Irish.

A new system for granting exemptions from the study of Irish announced today, Monday, 12 August, by the Minister for Education and Skills could have serious implications. An independent expert assessment will not be carried out on the pupils seeking exemptions under the new system and the principal will have the responsibility to approve or refuse the exemption without this. Details of the reasons for granting an exemption are still to be announced and these will be closely monitored.

The President of Conradh the Gaeilge, Niall Comer, said: “Conradh na Gaeilge agrees with Minister Joe McHugh that bilingualism provides additional benefits for the student, particularly in learning a third language and maths. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the Minister did not propose to put in place a system that reduces the reasons why pupils seek exemption in the first place by significantly changing the system rather than implementing the proposed new system from the beginning of September. For example, a pupil with learning difficulties, particularly with writing, could do Irish for the Leaving Certificate based on the oral exam which would ensure that the pupil is included in the Irish class, rather than being excluded. This would give the pupil the opportunity to study Irish based on their ability”.

Julian de Spáinn, the General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “The new system for granting exemptions, announced today, highlights again the urgent need for a policy for the teaching of Irish from pre-school to university and Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Minister for Education and Skills to formulate such a policy without further delay. We are not surprised at the outcome of the consultation regarding the new system of granting exemptions. It was clear from the survey used by the Department in early January that the Department was not seeking new proposals to significantly reduce the need for exemptions, nor ensuring that as many pupils as possible are included in learning Irish, and not excluded. Principals will be pressured to make decisions on exemptions from September and they will not have expert reports from psychologists to assist them in those decisions”.

Conradh na Gaeilge is also questioning why a new system could not have been put in place for pupils entering the education system late. For example, they could learn Irish to a certain level (using the European Framework for Language Learning) and achieve leaving certificate points based on this level. The new exemptions system avoids addressing the deficiencies in the system rather than putting a more inclusive system in place. This again demonstrates the need for a policy regarding the teaching of Irish from pre-school to university and Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Minister for Education and Skills to develop such a policy without further delay.

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge