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Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín 10 mbliana ag fás!

April 10, 2017

Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín first opened its doors on the 4th September 2006 in Sunshine House, with 2 teachers and 35 students. This wonderful achievement came about as the result of 2 years of hard work and dedication of the Founding Committee. They worked tirelessly to raise awareness, enrol potential students, raise funds and achieve recognition from the Department of Education and Skills.gaelscoil_bhaile_briginIt was a historical day for the town of Balbriggan and the school has grown and flourished over the last 10 years to a school with 485 students, 26 teachers, 7 SNAs and ancillary staff. There are 16 mainstream classes and 2 ASD classes.

The school and ASD classes are educated through the medium of Irish. They also engage in many extra curricular and cultural activities such as sport, drama, music and various afterschool clubs. Parental involvement remains an important aspect of the school. The school also now benefits from access to a Gaelcholáiste ( Coláiste Ghlór Na mara ) in the town.

A wonderful day was had in the school on 6/4/17 to celebrate the success and growth of the school, with musicians, dancers and a concert with Seo Linn!

Ní neart go cur le chéile

Ní thuigim: Irish language faces stark threat in its heartland

April 7, 2017

Just over a fifth of people living in Gaeltacht areas speak Irish on a daily basis

There has been an alarming drop in the number of Irish speakers in the country’s eight Gaeltacht areas in the past five years, according to official census figures, indicating that Irish is in danger of becoming extinct as a native language.

The latest official figures published by the Central Statistics Office also show the first decline in more than 80 years in the overall percentage of Irish speakers in the State.

The total number of people who said they were being able to speak Irish in April 2016 was 1,761,420, a slight drop since 2011 but, more significantly, the lowest percentage of Irish speakers since 1946.

The decline in Gaeltacht areas is starker. There has been a fall of an astonishing 11.2 per cent of daily Irish speakers since 2011. Only 21.4 per cent of a total population of 96,090 in the native speaking areas said they spoke Irish on a daily basis.

The gravest drop in the number of daily speakers in a Gaeltacht was in Mayo, home county of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. There was a drop of almost 25 per cent in daily Irish speakers in just five years, a calamitous fall for a tiny Gaeltacht.

This precipitous drop provoked criticism from the Opposition and language activist groups, which have been scathing of the Government’s approach to the language. Conradh na Gaeilge said the Government had refused to invest in the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language over the past six years, rendering it completely ineffective.

However, the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Seán Kyne defended the Government’s record on the strategy, saying it had invested in the strategy and also pointed out that it was only six years into its 20-year term.

Peadar Tóibín of Sinn Féin said the Government’s policy was in chaos.

Dr John Walsh of the Department of Irish in National University of Ireland, Galway, described the results as “worrying”.

“The results reveal falls in all of the significant figures: daily Irish speakers outside the education system, and ability of Irish and frequency of its use in the Gaeltacht. The dramatic fall in numbers of daily speakers in the Gaeltacht is particularly significant.”

He added: “The negative returns raise fundamental questions about government policy on the Irish language, in particularly the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language, which set out highly unrealistic targets for increases in speakers.

“It would appear that that the language-planning process in the Gaeltacht and elsewhere is having little effect. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the very small state investment in it.”

Dr Walsh pointed to a less pessimistic outlook outside the Gaeltacht areas.

“As was the case in the 2011 census, about two-thirds of daily speakers outside the education system are located outside the Gaeltacht and, while this number has also fallen, the decline is much smaller [slightly more than 1 per cent].

“This indicates that the numbers speaking Irish daily outside the Gaeltacht, although small, are more stable than within the Gaeltacht,” he said.

Foinse: Irish Times

President marks foundation of State’s first Gaelscoil

April 7, 2017

Scoil Bhríde founder Luíse Ghabhánach Ní Dhufaigh first taught at Patrick Pearse’s Scoil Íde

 President Michael D Higgins joined 450 students and former pupils of Scoil Bhríde to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country’s first Gaelscoil in Beechwood, Ranelagh on Thursday morning.

President Higgins placed a copy of a speech he delivered into a time capsule along with photographs and letters written by schoolchildren at the Gaelscoil.

The time capsule will be opened in 2067 when the oldest child currently in the school will be 62 years of age.

The school was founded by suffragist and nationalist Luíse Ghabhánach Ní Dhufaigh (also known as Louise Gavan Duffy) and Áine Nic Aodha with just a dozen students in 1917.

All subjects were taught through the medium of Irish.

Ní Dhufaigh, who was born and raised in Nice, first came to Ireland to attend the funeral of her father, Young Irelander Charles Gavan Duffy in 1903.

She returned some years later to study at UCD and met Patrick Pearse through Conradh na Gaeilge. She later taught at his school, Scoil Íde, in Teach Feadha Cuileann where she developed her own vision of education.

She was present in the GPO during Easter Week, 1916 and was a founding member of Cumann na mBan. She died in October 1969.

Originally housed in No. 70 St. Stephen’s Green, the school moved several times since its foundation and is currently located on Bóthar Feadha Cuileann in Ranelagh.

Souce: Irish Times

Dublin Gaelscoil pupils sing beautiful Irish version of Hallelujah

April 7, 2017

Pupils at Scoil Bhríde primary school in Ranelagh, Dublin entertained President Higgins with music and song including an as Gaeilge version of Hallelujah when he visited the school to mark it’s 100th centenary. Video: Conchubhair Mac Lochlainn

Source: Irish Times

Irish yes, but not always Catholic

April 6, 2017

The main gaelscoileanna patron body says reconfiguration of the primary school system is not only about religion

There is a lot of talk about making the education system more diverse.

Classrooms are certainly more inclusive but progress on changing the architecture of school patronage to reflect the shift in cultural and religious mores has been slow.

Much of the focus in the debate is on the place of religion in the primary school sector. A situation where 90pc of schools are under the control of the Catholic Church is regarded, even by the church itself, as not a proper reflection of the needs of modern Ireland.

A five-year-old process to divest some of the 2,900 Catholic schools to other patrons has seen no more than 10 change hands. The current education minister, Richard Bruton, has come up with a new word, reconfiguration, and a different process, to try to move it on.

The new approach is not unrelated to the arrival, in recent years, of community national schools, which are run by the education and training boards (ETBs), the successors to the VECs. The Catholic Church certainly seems amenable to them as a patron body to which it would transfer schools, and so does the minister.

Unlike the traditional multi-denominational model – which keeps religion teaching out of the classrooms altogether – community national schools, while providing a general multi-belief programme, also offer faith formation within school time, for those who want it.

Clear battle lines are drawn between Educate Together, which has been the main provider of multi-denominational schools at primary level, and ETBs, which act as patrons of the community national schools. But they are not the only ones in the field, and it is not only a religious war.

Primary school enrolments will peak in the next year or so, which means there will be very few new schools in the foreseeable future. So, a shakeout of the Catholic Church-controlled sector provides the main opportunity for patron bodies of all persuasions, religious or otherwise, to grow their presence.

An Foras Pátrúnachta is the patron for most Irish-medium schools in the country. It has some concerns that, in the current debate, its offering is not fully understood and that it may get squeezed if the reshaping of Irish primary education is seen purely through the lens of religious ethos.

Its general secretary, Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, says the issue to be confronted is not only religion but also the medium of instruction. But, if it is about religious ethos, he wants it known that he can offer all options.

An Foras Pátrúnachta’s main mission is the provision of Irish-medium schools; it is flexible on the issue of spiritual ethos, responding to local needs. Its first school, in 1993, was multi-denominational and it also has schools that are denominational (Catholic) and inter-denominational (Catholic and Protestant). So, it has ticked all the traditional boxes in terms of religion.

Now there is a another option – the one offered by community national schools, a hybrid of sorts between denominational and multi-denominational.

Last month, Ó hEaghra wrote to Richard Bruton to let him know that An Foras Pátrúnachta was adding this choice to its offering and asking him to spread the word to relevant parties.

That is a reference to the surveys to be conducted under the reconfiguration process, by ETBs, to identify towns or areas within their regions there is demand for greater school diversity. (As well as being a patron body for community national schools, the ETBs have been given this central role – to the displeasure of some.) Where demand for change is identified, there will be discussions between individual ETBs and local church interests about possible transfers.

Ó hEaghra says it provides an opportunity not only for Catholic gaelscoileanna to transfer to an Irish-medium patron, but also to establish Irish medium schools in areas where there are none, and provide multi-denominational or inter-belief education through the medium of Irish.

So, what is the demand for Irish-medium education? Ó hEaghra offers an example: Last year, a new school opened on the north side of Dublin city, serving the Marino-Drumcondra-Dublin 1 area, to cater for 450 pupils. This was not to do with divestment or reconfiguration, but a consequence of local birth rates.

Once the Department of Education decides there is sufficient demand for a new school, it invites patrons to apply, and to back up their application with evidence of parental support. In this case, An Foras Pátrúnachta produced 733 names – but almost half were from outside the qualifying area. On the other hand, Educate Together, had 643 parental preferences, 622 of which were valid, and was awarded the patronage.

Ó hEaghra says that even if many of their supporters were outside the official boundary, and many, only slightly, he says it did establish a significant demand in the area for an Irish-medium school that has not been addressed and “there remains no option for a multi-denominational gaelscoil north of the Liffey in Dublin”.

He points to a 2015 ESRI study that shows growing interest for Irish-medium education: between 2011 and 2015 there was an increase, from 13pc to 23pc, in parents who said they would consider sending their child to an all-Irish primary school, if one was located near their home. Some 4.7pc of primary schools are gaelscoileanna.

An Foras Pátrúnachta is patron to 65 primary schools and four second-level schools, with two more on the way. Ó hEaghra says that where it does establish schools at both levels the “results are formidable”.

In Kildare, it has four primary schools and one second-level. The 2011 census showed that 83,526 people in the county could speak Irish, compared with 73,373 in 2006. Ó hEaghra says they “attribute this growth directly to the success of our schools and their efforts to promote and foster an Irish speaking community in their areas. In addition to their children, parents are often motivated to re-learn Irish along with their children”.

He says that one-in-four of their schools is multi-denominational, and that the make up of their schools generally reflect the local community.

Gaelscoileanna often face charges of being elitist and allegedly only interested in children whose parents are fluent in Irish. He counters that with the results of an An Foras Pátrúnachta study, conducted in January and February, which shows that 9.6pc of its pupils are “new Irish”, compared with a national average of 10.4pc. Almost half of its schools have a higher rate of “new Irish” than the national average and, in one school, in Co Cavan, 28pc of pupils are “new Irish”.

Notwithstanding this, he says they face challenges getting their message across: “We are working to encourage more ‘new Irish’ to attend our schools. Many families are not aware of how their child’s home language/or development of English is actually enhanced by the immersion education model and that the distinctive ethos can vary from gaelscoil to gaelscoil.”

Gaeilgeoirí – and proud of it

The rapid expansion of Balbriggan in north county Dublin in the past decade has also seen it transform into a town with one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the country.

Among its primary schools is Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigín, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The gaelscoil opened with 35 pupils in 2006, and now it is full to capacity with 485, including many from “new Irish” families. In some cases, one, or both, parents come from a non-Irish background. In the past two years, the school has opened two special classes for pupils with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

Principal Clodagh Ní Mhaoilchiaráin says the different ethnic background of the pupils is not an issue when it comes to education through the medium of Irish, either for the children or their parents. She says children have no difficulty, including those with special educational needs: “It doesn’t matter what the child’s background is. It is shown internationally, and nationally, that learning through a second language is hugely beneficial to all children.”

On the question of the proficiency in levels in Irish of parents, she says that while “people might say that it could be difficult for them, they would attest that it is not as big a worry as it may appear before their children start in the school. There are plenty of supports”.

Irish Independent

New gaelscoil will support growth of Galway gaeltacht

April 4, 2017

The Gaeltacht Minister says the new Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh building in Knocknacarra will support the future growth of the Galway gaeltacht.
Junior Minister Sean Kyne turned the sod on the site of the new school building at an event this afternoon.
A contractor was appointed late last year for the major building project, which had been subject to planning delays.
The new building will have 24 classrooms and capacity for up to 720 pupils, and will be located opposite the pitches at Millars Lane.
Minister Sean Kyne says the school will act as a hub for the development of the area’s Gaeltacht language plan.
Principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh Dairiona Nic Con Iomaire says the new school will be used by the whole community.

Source: The Connacht Tribune

(Gaeilge) Polasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta: polasaí lochtach lagbhríoch

April 3, 2017

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

‘Factchecker’ forced to change verdict on Catholic schools

March 31, 2017

TheJournal.ie has been forced to change the verdict of its FactCheck on the enrolment policies of Catholic schools following a challenge from the Iona Institute.

Iona’s Maria Steen appeared on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live a few weeks ago to debate the admissions policy of denominational schools. Ms Steen said that with regard to certain measures, Catholic schools were more diverse than multi-denominational schools, citing ESRI research about the proportion of pupils from lone-parent families, less affluent households and from the Traveller community.

This was challenged on the programme by Paul Rowe of Educate Together as “palpably not true” and “absurd”.

Initial verdict

The Journal’s ‘FactCheck’ then investigated Ms Steen’s claim and its initial verdict was that what she said was ‘mostly false’. This was strongly challenged by the Iona Institute which presented The Journal with the research to back up her claim and FactCheck has now changed its verdict to ‘mostly true’.

The report ‘School Sector Variation Among Primary Schools in Ireland’ was published in 2012, based on data gathered in 2007 and 2008, it was written by the ESRI and funded by Educate Together.

The research compared the religious, socioeconomic, Travelling community, and other backgrounds of pupils at three primary school types: Catholic; multi-denominational (mostly Educate Together); and minority faith schools (Church of Ireland, Jewish and Muslim).

It showed that Catholic school pupils had a greater tendency to be from less affluent and lower socio-economic backgrounds, and there was greater socio-economic diversity among pupils at Catholic primary schools.

It also showed that a higher percentage of Catholic school students came from a lone-parent family than students from other types of schools (18% as opposed to 15% and 9%).


Primary school shake-up to focus on ‘play-led’ learning

March 29, 2017

Children would not study traditional subjects until aged 10, under new proposals

Children at primary schools would not study traditional subjects until as late as 10 years of age, under proposals being considered by policymakers.

Instead, there would be a much greater emphasis on creative play during the early years of primary school, and broader areas of learning in later years.

The reforms are based loosely on some of the features of top-performing education systems in countries such as Finland, as well as new research on how children learn.

The proposals, drafted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), represent some of the biggest proposed changes to teaching and learning at primary level in more than two decades.

They also seek to give teachers more flexibility and autonomy over the amount of time dedicated to key areas of learning.

Educators, policymakers and parents discussed the proposals at a conference in Dublin Castle on Tuesday as part of a consultation phase which continues until the end of April.

The existing curriculum was drawn up almost 20 years ago when fewer junior infants came from a preschool background. Today, 95 per cent of children starting school have come from a preschool.

A key proposal involves extending the preschool curriculum – Aistear – into the early years of the primary school curriculum. This could ease the transition for children entering primary school and form the basis for a child-led play approach to learning.

Proposed changes over the structure of the school day could see a minimum of 60 per cent of the school day set aside for teaching the core curriculum, such as English, Irish and maths.

The remainder of the school day would be designated as “flexible time” for roll call, assembly, breaks, discretionary curriculum time and the patron’s programme.

This would allow schools to spend additional time on the part of the curriculum which they feel best meets the needs of students. Controversially, it would result in religion being dropped from the core curriculum.

Another potential change involves a move away from traditional subjects in the early and middle phase of primary school, with a greater focus on themes or “curriculum areas”.

This is influenced by the fact that children are faced with studying 11 subjects when they enter primary schools, which some experts feel is too structured and may impede learning.

Exciting opportunity

In a keynote address to the conference, Fergus Finlay, head of the children’s charity Barnardos, said the new proposals represented an exciting opportunity to meet the full range of children’s needs at a younger age.

But he warned that its successful implementation will depend on ensuring it is backed up by resources and reform.

“Will every setting operate to the standard implied in the new curriculum? We know they won’t without resources. We know they won’t without some degree of standardisation. We know they won’t without structural change,” he said.

Concluding the conference, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the proposals came at a crucial time for the education sector given rapid changes in society and the workplace.

He said the focus on improving the transition between preschool and primary schools was particularly important.

“The primary curriculum has been a real strength of our system over many years,” he said.

“We are now, hopefully, building on that strength, giving people more of the flexibility and capacity to be innovative with their use of that curriculum in their own setting.”

The NCCA is keen to emphasise that the proposals are intended to begin a discussion about the redevelopment of the primary curriculum.

A report on the outcome of consultations and a more detailed overview of a redeveloped primary curriculum is likely later this year, which will be the focus of further consultation in late 2017 and into 2018.


Longford principal lands plum job

March 21, 2017

Gaelscoil Longfoirt principal Yvonne Ní Mhurchú has told of her “great honour” at being elected president of a leading educational body for Irish language speaking schools.

Ms Ní Mhurchú was elevated to the top table of national Irish organisation Gaelscoileanna Teo, the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish, following a recently held meeting in Kilkenny.

In her new position, the Newtownforbes mother of one is already revelling in her role in representing more than 300 primary schools and 70 secondary schools currently providing education through the medium of Irish both inside and outside Gaeltacht areas.

“It is an honour and a very big honour to be appointed,” she said.Asked what may have prompted her appointment, Ms Ni Mhurchú pointed to her near two decade long association with Gaelscoil Longfoirt, a period which has seen it grow from around 20 students to the 200 strong facility it is today.

“I suppose I have been there and know all about the building blocks that’s needed to build up a school,” she said, while stressing Gaelscoileanna Teo was also recognised as an educational partner with the Department of Education.

“Having been there and experienced all of that I believe I am well placed to offer advice to other schools and represent them at national level.”


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