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Enrolment policies of Irish-medium schools misrepresented in the media

February 13, 2018

Gaeloideachas CEO Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin has expressed disappointment at recent media reports on the enrolment policies of Irish-medium schools, which have left parents worried and unhappy. The coverage has suggested that mandatory interviews will be used to allocate places for children in Irish-medium schools once the new Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill comes into effect. This is not the case, nor was this method proposed by Gaeloideachas or any other organisation.

The Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016, which is being drafted at present, sets out the enrolment practices that will be allowed, and those that will not, when school boards of management are allocating places in oversubscribed schools. Some 30% of Irish-medium schools are unable to accept all applicants because the schools are overcrowded and give priority to siblings in their enrolment criteria. Those schools have no option but to allocate places based on additional criteria. During extensive consultations on the issue over the past few years, Gaeloideachas and other organisations advocating for Irish-medium education have clarified that the system is one that welcomes every child, regardless of their level of ability or linguistic background, and that the Irish language and Irish-medium education is a gift that should be available to every child. Unfortunately, however, this model of education is not widely available, and its development is being hindered. This is in spite of increased demand from parents, who recognise the benefits it offers their children, as well as a general increase in the public’s interest in the Irish language. Thousands of children every year miss out on the opportunity to attend Irish-medium schools due to a lack of vision and support from the Department of Education & Skills. If the proposed ban on schools giving preference to children coming from preschools comes into effect, also included in the Bill, it will have grave consequences for children’s opportunities to progress from naíonraí to Irish-medium primary schools. It will also diminish the status of the naíonraí at a time when the early-years education sector is already very vulnerable.

Children who speak Irish at home are a tiny minority within a minority, and make up just 5% of those attending Irish-medium schools. Gaeloideachas supports the schools that give priority to those children in their enrolment policies in cases of oversubscription. It is vital to ensure their right to education in their native language, and their presence in the classroom helps other children to acquire the language. Anna Ní Chartúir, Gaeloideachas President, said “ I hope the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 will ensure that every child who speaks Irish at home will have a place in an Irish-medium school”.

Gaeloideachas also supports families who have little or no Irish, but who want Irish-medium education for their children. Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin addressed the heart of the issue when she said that “if Irish-medium education was available as a real choice for families, with access to primary and post-primary schools, this discussion would not be happening. Parents’ wishes would be respected, the benefits of Irish-medium education would be widely available and there would be real support for families who speak Irish at home.”

Further information
Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, CEO: 086 8050335
Anna Ní Chártúir, President: 085 1351097
Seán Ó hArgáin, PRO: 087 4192322