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Irish-medium schools under serious threat following the announcement of proposed changes to the pupil-teacher ratio

November 25, 2010

Irish-medium schools are deeply concerned by the Department of Education and skills’ announcement of the end of the current pupil-teacher ratio system. The system currently in operation acknowledges the extra challenges facing small and developing Irish-medium schools and allows them a slightly more favourable pupil-teacher ratio than large and long-established schools.

The present system recognised the extra challenges facing developing Irish-medium schools, such as teaching the entire curriculum through the medium of Irish despite the paucity of resources and supports available to the Irish-medium sector. The ratio permitted in smaller Irish-medium schools acknowledged the need to strengthen and protect the immersion system and the Irish language ethos in schools.  

It has now been announced that the Irish-medium schools will be subject to the same ratios operational in English-medium schools from September 2011. This has very serious implications for the Irish-medium sector and will result in job losses, larger class size and a less effective learning experience for the child. This will also have serious repercussions for teachers employed in the Irish-medium sector, especially those without panel rights and particularly given that there isn’t a proper panel for teachers in Irish-medium schools.   

Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, General Secretary of Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge Teo. remarked, “it’s clear from the amount of calls we received from our schools today that they feel threatened by a Department completely insensitive to their needs. If this continues, teachers will lose their jobs and they will not have a place on a panel, as schools under the remit of the Foras are not granted panel places by the Department. This, coupled with the lack of proper accommodation for schools and the failure to grant Gaelscoil Ráth Tó official recognition raises questions about the Department’s attitude to Irish-medium education.”

There has also been a steady stream of calls from concerned teachers and principals to the GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. offices about the implications of the Department’s decision in terms of the everyday running of schools operating under the additional pressure of larger classes and greater teacher workloads. GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. President, Mícheál Ó Broin sympathises, saying

“We understand the seriousness of this crisis for a sector which is taking one serious hit after another. Not only are Irish-medium schools unfairly suffering due to poor accommodation and a lack of educational supports, this latest blow puts more pressure on their already limited resources. It is scandalous and unacceptable that Irish-medium schools suffer yet again due to the government’s lack of planning and vision. We will continue to seek clarification through dialogue with the Department on this important issue.”

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national coordinating organisation for Irish-medium schools at primary and post-primary level. It provides assistance and support to parents and local communities who wish to found a school and it supports existing Irish-medium schools in their development.


GAELSCOILEANNA TEO: 01-8535195 / Mícheál Ó Broin ag 0879467700 /Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin (Ardfheidhmeannach) ag 0868050335.
An Foras Patrúnach