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Daltaí Gaelscoile dearfach faoin nGaeilge

January 26, 2012

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Méadú 60.8% ar an Ghaelscolaíocht

January 25, 2012

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Oscailt an tSrutha i Scoil Íosaef

January 25, 2012

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Irish language careers road show 2012

January 24, 2012

Once again this year Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge will host a series of Irish language careers seminars for secondary school students all over Ireland.

To date, An Chomhdháil has held sixteen ‘Buntáiste breise na Gaeilge’ seminars all over Ireland in the past three years and in February and March 2012 the towns of Ballinasloe in east Galway, Ennis in Co. Clare and Navan in Co. Meath will host the seminars.  After the summer holidays the seminars will visit Thurles in Tipperary, Wexford town and Naas in Co. Kildare.

These seminars cater for second level students all over Ireland.  Guest speakers and well-known personalities will speak on the advantages which the Irish language has afforded them in their chosen careers.

As part of the seminars, questions from the students are welcomed, which give rise to lively debate about such subjects as the future of the language, Gaeltacht status, Irish as a compulsory subject, Irish at third level, and the Government’s support for the language.

Representatives from third level institutions attend with exhibition stands, to inform students of the various Irish language courses available to them after they leave school.

These seminars which have been organised since 2009 have proven to be a great success with over 123 secondary school schools and up to 3,808 students all over the Ireland attending.

If you are a secondary school teacher or an individual who would like to attend any of the upcoming seminar listed below which may be taking place in your region please contact Brígíd in Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, 01 679 4780.

  • Ballinasloe, Co Galway, 29th February 2012
  • Ennis, Co. Clare, 1st March 2012
  • Navan, Co. Meath, 27th March 2012
  • Thurles, Co. Tipperary, 17th October 2012
  • Wexford, 18th October 2012
  • Naas, Co. Kildare, 15th November 2012

Rith 2012 in Kildare

January 23, 2012

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For the sake of our future we must swim upstream

January 23, 2012

A revolution is brewing among parents who oppose the Government’s proposed cutbacks for small rural schools, writes Concubhar O Liathain

‘ONLY dead fish swim downstream.” This was the Finnish proverb quoted by John McKenna, co-author of the Bridgestone Guides to fine dining in Ireland, and an unlikely revolutionary.

A native of Northern Ireland now living in Durrus in west Cork, when he spoke last Monday night at a public meeting in Dunmanway to protest against proposals to impose cuts on small rural schools, his proposal was as revolutionary as his opening proverb was apt.

His most revolutionary message: there is an alternative.

When Finland faced its economic crisis in 1991, instead of cutting funding to education it invested more in schools and pupils. Now Finland spends 7 per cent of its GDP on education and boasts an education system widely acclaimed to be the best in the world. Those who graduate from Finnish secondary schools are likely to be more numerate, literate and multilingual than their counterparts internationally. Finnish educators spend their time travelling the world telling others how they transformed their education system and their country.

McKenna’s message wasn’t lost on the parents and teachers attending this meeting, one of a series held this past week in locations throughout Ireland as the campaign to halt cutbacks which would see many small rural schools lose teachers — and face possible closure –began to gather momentum.

Of 56 schools in west Cork, more than 40 will either lose a teacher or miss out on recruiting a teacher to which they would have been entitled under the current criteria. As one teacher put it, if you think it’s bad this year, just wait until next year. This underlines the fear that these cuts will increase in frequency and intensity.

For these people, the cuts proposed by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and his coterie of highly paid special advisers are an attack on not alone their schools but on their communities. Until now the age of austerity brought to us by the letters Anglo and Fianna Fail and numbers beyond our comprehension has not touched most of our lives, though it has lightened our pay packets.

But once our children are being asked to pay for the follies of Sean Quinn and his ilk, then parents are roused to anger.

There was a great deal of seething resentment and scarcely repressed rage in evidence last Monday night. The teacher who complained about the difficulties of helping children with special needs of varying ages and demands, and then being told that she may have to cope with an extra class, made a telling point. “There are rules restricting the number of pigs that can be kept in a specific space, there are rules about the number of chickens, but there appear to be no limits to the number of children that can be fitted into a classroom,” she said.

The principal of Scoil Naisiunta Chuil Aodha Barr d’Inse — the school I went to myself and which is now attended by my children — pointed to agriculture as the best performing sector of the economy and wondered aloud about the mixed message being sent to the bedrock of that sector, the farmers, by the proposed cuts.

Other parents spoke about moving to country idylls in west Cork, not for the views but for the prospect of a better education for their children. They believe that rural schools with smaller class sizes and teachers plugged into their communities are the best guarantee of a better education. To say they’re angry about this cherished goal being denied them after all their efforts would be an understatement.

They’re not wrong about the impact of teachers on their children. In a study quoted at the meeting by McKenna, undertaken by Harvard academics Raj Chetty and John M Friedman and Columbia University’s Jonah E Rockoff, involving 2.5 million schoolchildren, they arrived at a number of conclusions. Students who had better teachers — or, in the parlance of the study, high value added teachers — are more likely to progress to third-level education, earn higher salaries, and live in better neighbourhoods and are less likely to have children while they’re teenagers.

The parents who attended Monday’s meeting didn’t need a Harvard study to confirm what they already know: that children in smaller schools are more likely to be taught by a high ‘value added’ teacher. They’re also more likely to stay closer to home or return

home when they themselves are about to raise a family.

While those on the side of small rural schools have Harvard studies and international examples to back their cases, the apologists for the Department of Education proposals have unworkable ideas to save a few cent here and there.

For instance, Fine Gael TD Jim Daly proposed to amalgamate schools by locating the senior classes — three, four, five and six — in one school and the junior classes in the other school building. The junior and senior schools would have one principal. The immediate result of this would be to increase the burden on parents ferrying their children to schools throughout the area. With the price of fuel increasing, the concern isn’t merely financial but safety on roads, which are already being neglected by cash-starved local authorities.

According to John McKenna, the alternative to the appalling vista of ageing people-carriers hurtling around country roads is to make a choice now. He urges us to invest in our children and our future. Let’s invest in them in the hope they will lead this country back to recovery. Schools are not money pits. They’re investment opportunities. They’re not contracts for difference, but contracts which can make a difference.

Whether the Minister for Education and his civil servants are in the mood for a philosophical debate about the future direction of education in Ireland is a moot point. They say they want educational reform, but all they are proposing is cutbacks.

They should sit up and take notice after last Monday night’s meeting. The atmosphere at the rally was alive with the possibility of a real rural revolution. In the coming days and weeks, this rural revolution will be bringing its radical message to the streets of Dublin and the gates of Leinster House.

There is an alternative. We are not dead fish. We’re no longer swimming downstream. For the sake of our children, our country and our future, we need to change direction and swim against the current.


Gaeltacht parents oppose teacher ratio changes in smaller primary schools

January 23, 2012

PARENTS OF children in small Gaeltacht schools have called on the Minister for Education to outline how he believes imposing new pupil-teacher ratios in small primary schools will save money in the long term.

“Ruairí Quinn, éist linn!” chanted more than 200 parents and their children at a demonstration in Galway at the weekend.

The parents from nine Gaeltacht schools in south Connemara expressed vehement opposition to a change which they describe as “discriminating against rural communities, non-Catholic school populations and Irish speakers”.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation members attending a consultative conference in Galway also described the move as a “blunt instrument”. The organisation’s general secretary Sheila Nunan described the budgetary measures as “flawed and lacking in planning” and called for a “coherent, long-term and resourced strategy for sustainable schools that met children’s needs irrespective of location”.

Such a strategy should “respect linguistic diversity and plurality of patronage”, Ms Nunan told more than 300 members at the meeting, which was called to discuss the impact of new primary education cuts.

The change to pupil-teacher ratios for those primary schools with four or fewer teachers was announced as a form of “phased increase” in pupil threshold in the December budget. Larger primary schools will not be affected.

Opposition has been expressed at a series of meetings around the State, with 500 people attending a meeting on the issue in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, on Friday.

Protests have also been held in areas including An Tuairín, Co Galway, one of the first Connemara Gaeltacht schools to be affected; Dunmanway, Co Cork, last week, and near Castlemaine, Co Kerry, before Christmas.

At the Galway demonstration, which was held in “solidarity with INTO members”, Connemara Gaeltacht parents said Mr Quinn was “forcing closure by stealth” by eroding confidence in the viability of schools with four teachers and under.

“It is time that this Government stopped blaming the previous government, as it is not acceptable that our children should have to suffer in these circumstances,” said Dara Bailey, who has one child at Leitir Móir and three at Leitir Calaidh primary schools. Fellow Leitir Calaidh parents Maria Nic Dhonncha, Mairín Ní Fhatharta and Margaret O’Sullivan said they were “very disappointed” at remarks by Minister of State for Education Ciarán Cannon in Ballinasloe on Friday night in which he proposed “clustering” junior and senior cycle primary classes from several schools under one board of management.

“Mr Cannon doesn’t seem to understand that if we lose our school, we lose our community, our identity is gone and it will affect the Irish language,” the parents said. “If Mr Cannon reflects the general attitude of Government, then as a society we are in serious trouble.”

Mr Cannon told The Irish Times yesterday that no one was “forcing amalgamation”, but such clustering could take place within a community or parish setting. “At least let us look at all the options,” he said.

Parents Ann Joyce, Delia Griffin, Mary Uí Fhatharta, Ellie Joyce and Teresa McDonagh of Tír an Fhia school said some schools might end up with one teacher for eight classes, which raised health and safety and EU work-time directive issues.

They called on Mr Quinn to “talk to the primary school principals” who might be able to propose viable cost-saving measures which would have a less detrimental effect on children and communities. Mr Cannon said the Minister would talk to principals at their forthcoming conference.

Last week the principal of Ahascragh school in north Galway, Liz Mulry, said there were less damaging measures Mr Quinn could take to save funds, such as tackling the price of building contracts for extra classrooms.

“If this new pupil-teacher ratio was being implemented in schools in Ballsbridge or Drumcondra, the Government would not get away with it,” she said.


FACED WITH the closure of the school that defines their community, local residents in the Gaeltacht community of Leitir Calaidh in Galway are blaming a Dublin Government that they say does not understand them.

In last month’s budget, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn set about increasing the number of pupils a school would need to retain a teacher.

Currently, a school with 12 students is entitled to a second teacher, however in 2014 this number will rise to 20.

For Scoil Naisiúnta Bhríde in Leitir Calaidh, which has 19 children enrolled and 19 projected to be enrolled in 2014, this means becoming a one-teacher school, which parents and teachers alike say would be its death.

“It won’t work,” said school principal Cathy Mhic Gearailt. “I’d expect that parents wouldn’t send their child to a one-teacher school and I’d say it would be closure here.

“In this day and age the curriculum is so wide. There are 11 subjects per class and a lot of the work is hands on and involves group work.”

She added that when a nearby school in Cnoc was reduced to just one teacher, it quickly failed, causing more social destruction than simply the loss of a school.

“The change in their area since the school closed, even parents chit-chatting at the gate and the kids to all play together and to know each other and now there is no sense of community there.”

Leitir Calaidh is a small townland just north of Leitir Mór in the south Connemara Gaeltacht. While it has close ties with its neighbouring areas, its residents cherish their own unique identity.

The death of that community is what the parents fear most, as Anne Marie Hernon, whose son is in third class in Scoil Bhríde, said.

“It would take away our identity because we are such separate areas and this school is the one thing that identifies ourselves.”

Visiting the school last week, Fine Gael Senator and party spokeswoman on education in the previous Seanad, Fidelma Healy Eames said Mr Quinn’s policy on retention numbers was mistaken and he had shown “a lack of understanding of the complexity of rural schools”.

She added that while his cost- saving objective may have been well intentioned, it would have been fairer if he had simply increased the pupil-teacher ratio across the board by 0.6.


Protests at new teacher ratios

January 23, 2012

PARENTS CONCERNED about new pupil-teacher ratios affecting the viability of small schools are voicing their concerns in Galway today.

Families in Clare, Offaly and Westmeath have been invited to joint counterparts from across the west who are opposed to the ratio changes implemented by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

They will demonstrate their support for the Irish National Teachers Organisation’s (INTO) stance on the issue at a union consultative conference in a Galway hotel this morning.

Liz Mulry, principal of a three-teacher school in Ahascragh, Co Galway, said it was one of a series of actions, which included a public meeting in Ballinasloe last night.

Parents participated in a protest on the issue yesterday at Scoil Mhuire, a Gaeltacht primary school in An Tuairín, south Connemara, while up to 500 people attended a meeting on the issue earlier this week in Dunmanway, Co Cork.

Ms Mulry says the pupil-teacher ratio changes initiated in the budget for one, two, three and four-teacher schools threaten the viability of rural and non-Catholic schools as both tend to be smaller.

“If this ratio was being implemented in schools in Ballsbridge or Drumcondra, the Government would not get away with it,” Ms Mulry said.

“Under the new, revised figures announced by the Minister we are set to lose a teacher the year after next even though we had more than enough pupils for three teachers on last September’s figures.”

Ms Mulry added: “Everyone knows we have to make cuts, but I would appeal to Mr Quinn to ask the principals for suggestions as to how to do same without affecting pupils.”


Gaelscoil Chionn tSáile’s Newsletter

January 20, 2012

Gaelscoil Chionn tSáile Newsletter

Groups’ school patrons move

January 20, 2012

Two groups are applying to be patron to an all-Irish second-level school expected to open in Carrigaline, Co Cork in 2014.

County Cork Vocational Education Committee and An Foras Pátrúnachta have made expressions of interest to the Department of Education, which proposes to establish 14 second-level schools.


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