All-Irish education suitable for every child, regardless of home language, capabilities, religion, social or economic background
With 72% in the south and 63% in the north of the opinion that Irish-medium education should be available for those that want it according to a Millward Brown survey and an ESRI report* published earlier this year, Conradh na Gaeilge is running an awareness campaign in conjunction with Gaelscoileanna Teo. and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta to inform parents of the benefits of choosing an all-Irish education for their children.
The Millward Brown and ESRI results illustrate the widespread goodwill towards Irish-medium education, but Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and Gaelscoileanna Teo. believe that there are still challenges to be faced in relation to excess demand for places in all-Irish schools, and that this is the source of misconceptions about Irish-medium education.
All-Irish schools currently represent only 8% of schools in the south and 2.5% of schools in the north and Clare Spáinneach, Senior Policy & Development Officer, Gaelscoileanna Teo. says:
“It is this disparity between supply and demand that causes many misunderstandings about the Irish-medium education system as it gives the impression that schools are not open to or suitable for everyone, when the complete opposite is true – all-Irish schools welcome children from every linguistic, religious, cultural, social and economic background, and the communities of these all-Irish schools grow in tandem with the increase in provision.
“The all-Irish schools serve the communities in which they operate, and the management are mindful of extending a special welcome to children from communities that maybe haven’t previously or traditionally been associated with the Irish language. The Church of Ireland is very well represented in Gaelscoil Nás na Ríogh in County Kildare for example, as are children whose families are from Nigeria, Chile, the Filipino Islands, Brazil, and even Hawaii.”
In the Irish-medium education system, every pupil from every kind of background begins on an equal footing with their fellow students with everyone learning a new language together. Parents are often worried that they won’t be in a position to help their children with their homework if they don’t have fluent Irish themselves, but most parents with children in all-Irish schools throughout the country face a similar situation, and both the schools and organisations like Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, Gaelscoileanna Teo. and Conradh na Gaeilge try to provide every support to every kind of parent in the all-Irish system.
Brenda Ní Ghairbhí, Manager of Seachtain na Gaeilge & Raising Awareness at Conradh na Gaeilge says:
“Not only are principals and classroom teachers very aware of the level of Irish that parents have, but all-Irish schools are vibrant, welcoming communities where parents support each other, from chatting at the school gates to attending night classes together, and everything in between.”
According to Tarlach Mac Giolla Bhríde, Senior Development Officer with Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta:
“There is nothing more important that the parents’ mind-set towards Irish-medium education when it comes to making a decision about their children’s schooling; if Mammy or Daddy have a positive and open attitude about the Irish-language pre-school, primary school or secondary school, then the child faces no obstacle in reaping the benefits of an all-Irish education, regardless what their home language or learning capabilities are.”
Some parents are initially concerned that the immersion education system will have a negative impact on their children’s development in English, but the research results of the Educational Research Centre, 2011, reveal that pupils in all-Irish primary schools are performing far above the national average in English reading, and that they are above average when it comes to maths as well.
The academic advantages of bilingualism and the immersion education system are widely recognised, and all-Irish schools cater for pupils with special needs exactly as schools operating through English do. All evidence indicates that children with special needs in the all-Irish system perform as well as children with special needs in English-medium schools, and the early immersion education system is recognised as the most successful model for pupils with special needs.
An autism unit is set to open in Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín in County Dublin in September 2015 and according to Clodagh Ní Mhaoilchiaráin, Principal of Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín:
“The school community here is hugely excited about the new autism unit, and we are really looking forward to getting everything started. This autism unit will help Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín enormously in catering for the current community we already have in the school, and for those who will be coming to us in the future with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and whose parents wish for them to stay in the Irish-medium education system.”
One all-Irish primary school and two all-Irish post-primary schools are due to open north and south this autumn, but these will not be sufficient to satisfy public demand. A vast number of all-Irish schools across the country are over-subscribed with excess demand for places, and Conradh na Gaeilge, Gaelscoileanna Teo. and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta are calling on the Governments to increase the provision of Irish-medium education at every level to ensure continuity and consistency in the all-Irish education systems, and to cope with the huge demand from the community to provide all-Irish immersion education.
Senior Policy & Development Officer, Gaelscoileanna Teo.
Tarlach Mac Giolla Bhríde
Senior Development Officer, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta
Brenda Ní Ghairbhí
Manager of Seachtain na Gaeilge & Raising Awareness, Conradh na Gaeilge
* According to figures arising from the research commissioned by Conradh na Gaeilge entitled Attitudes towards the Irish Language and Irish language policy by Paul Brown of Millward Brown that were made available in February 2015, 72% in the south and 63% in the north agreed with the statement “Every child should be entitled to have their education through the medium of Irish, if that is their preferred choice”. The same percentage, i. e. 72% in the south and 63% in the north, agreed either strongly or mildly with the statement that “The government should provide all-Irish schools wherever the public want them” in the research report entitled Attitudes towards the Irish Language on the Island of Ireland by Dr Merike Darmody of the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Tania Daly of Amárach Research, published in August 2015; the ESRI report was based on Irish-language surveys conducted in 2001, and again in 2013.
Number of immersion education institutions fro the academic year 2014 – 2015:
- Primary Schools in the 6 Counties: 28
- Primary Schools in the 26 Counties, outside of the Gaeltacht: 143
- Gaeltacht Primary Schools: 126
- Post-primary Schools and Units in the 6 Counties: 5 (one post-primary school, four units)
- Post-primary Schools and Units in the 26 Counties, outside of the Gaeltacht: 42
- Post-primary Schools and Units in the Gaeltacht: 22
Confirmed to open in September 2015:
- Primary Schools in the 26 Counties: 1
- Post-primary Schools in the 6 Counties: 1
- Post-primary Schools in the 26 Counties: 1