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Opportunities for Irish-medium schools in the Minister for Education’s announcement

April 13, 2018

Gaeloideachas welcomes the announcement made today by the Minister for Education & Skills, Richard Bruton, that 42 new schools are to open in 2019-2022. “It’s a positive announcement that will help us to ensure that Irish-medium schools will be available as a choice for more children whose parents are interested in immersion education. It will also help to meet the huge demand for multidenominational education through the medium of Irish” said Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, Gaeloideachas CEO.

New schools

Gaeloideachas will consult with prospective patrons who wish to provide Irish-medium education in the areas identified for new schools by the Department of Education. The organisation welcomes queries and comments from members of the public regarding the possibilities they see for development in their local area.

Campaigns to establish new Irish-medium schools have already been run in some of the areas on the Department’s list, including: Marino, Drumcondra and Dublin 1, Dublin 2, 4 and 6, Dún Laoghaire and Kilkenny. Gaeloideachas hopes to build on the huge work these communities have already put into campaigning, and to see a positive result from it now that the opportunity has been announced. There are opportunities in many of the other identified areas also, where there is a demand for Irish-medium education and where the statistics provided by schools to the organisation each year show that most of the Irish-medium schools in the Department-identified areas are oversubscribed.

A holistic approach to development needed to support existing schools

Gaeloideachas acknowledges, however, that an announcement such as the one made by the Minister today creates both opportunity and challenges for existing schools. There are schools in these areas that would like to expand but have not been allowed to do so, and schools that have been disadvantaged for years due to sub-standard accommodation. Gaeloideachas will continue to campaign for the wishes and the needs of these schools to be met, and to be taken into account in the planning process. Some of the pressure on the system could be alleviated by existing schools if they were provided with adequate accommodation, and could enrol additional students.

We ask that the Department adopt a holistic approach when planning for the future capacity of our education system. This is particularly relevant for the post-primary sector, where it would be both possible and practical to award independent school status to Irish-medium units operating within schools in some of the areas identified for development. At present, Irish-medium units operate in schools around the country without adequate support or protection from the State to ensure their success and sustainability. This process presents the Department with an opportunity to work with school patrons to ensure that Irish-medium post-primary education will be permanently available in these regions.

Equality for Irish-medium education?

It is not yet clear what the process to determine the patronage and ethos of the new schools will be. The Department has indicated that the process in place since 2011 has been revised, but that parental choice will remain central to the decision. The patronage determination process will have a huge influence on the number of Irish-medium schools that will open in the coming years. Gaeloideachas has been lobbying since 2015 for the process to be revised to ensure equal opportunity for applications for Irish-medium schools. The previous process put parents who wanted Irish-medium education for their children at a disadvantage, as their campaigns were unable to compete with those for majority-language English-speaking schools. Information on the Department’s new process will be published in the coming weeks, and Gaeloideachas hopes that it will support the development of the sector, in accordance with the State’s commitments under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language.

All information on the campaigns to establish new Irish-medium schools and to secure appropriate accommodation for existing schools will be published on www.gaeloideachas.ie and on social media. Anna Ní Chartúir, Gaeloideachas President, said “we really hope that the coming years will see Irish-medium schools expanding and thriving”.