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Report to restrict gaelscoileanna

May 4, 2011

A group representing Irish-language schools has warned that the development of new gaelscoileanna could be hindered if proposals contained in a new report are introduced.

There are currently ten all-Irish primary schools in Galway City and County, in addition to nine all-Irish second level schools, and Gaelscoileanna Teo has argued that proposals contained in a recently published report by the Commission on School Accommodation could hinder the development of any new gaelscoileanna. Despite the current economic downturn, the total enrolment in primary schools around the country is predicted to grow by an additional 64,000 pupils to 569,600 by the year 2018. And as a result, the Department of Education is primarily focusing on building new schools in areas where the population is increasing. However, Gaelscoileanna Teo has argued that there is also a need for new all-Irish primary schools to have an opportunity to establish in areas of stable population where there is a demand for all-Irish education. “There still is high demand for such schools. We would be dealing with people on the ground in various areas around the country who are attempting to set up new schools at the moment and they’re coming across a lot of difficulties since the Department really are trying to set up schools only where the population is growing.

There’s a lot of difficulties regarding how you provide Irish medium education for people who are not in those areas,” said Acting Gaelscoileanna Teo CEO Nóra Ní Loingsigh. The new Department of Education report also proposes to conduct parental surveys to determine what kind of new schools should be built in areas of demographic growth, and Ms Ní Loingsigh has argued that if schools are established on that basis in the future, it will be difficult to establish an Irish-speaking school “as it is likely that only a minority will seek all-Irish education in preference to English-medium education”. Gaelscoileanna Teo has also dismissed a proposal contained in the new report to establish all-Irish units within existing all-English schools, suggesting that such units simply do not work. “Over the past ten years seven all-Irish units have closed at second level due to lack of support from the Department. In addition, it is hard for all-Irish units to create an Irish language ethos since they are surrounded by English,” said Ms Ní Loingsigh.

Gaelscoileanna Teo is now seeking a meeting with representatives from the Department of Education and gaelscoileanna patron An Foras Pátrúnachta, which has also objected to the Commission on School Accommodation’s report, to discuss the creation of a development plan for Irish medium education.

Galway Independent – Lorraine O’Hanlon