Text size

Threat to the future of Choláiste Chineál Eoghain, Buncrana

April 30, 2013

Concern has been expressed by GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., Co. Donegal VEC and Coláiste Chineál Eoghain in Buncrana following communication from the Department of Education and Skills that puts the future of the school in doubt. The Department have given notice that the temporary recognition granted to the school, which opened in 2007, is to be rescinded because of low enrolment figures. The Department has outlined 3 options for the school, namely; that it will close on a phased basis, that it will convert to an Aonad (an Irish-medium unit) under the management of a local English-medium school or that the present students would have the option to attend Coláiste Ailigh in Letterkenny, more than 30km from Buncrana.

There are 34 students currently receiving education through the medium of Irish in Coláiste Chineál Eoghain, and a further 17 registered to attend the school in September 2013. It would be a severe blow to them if the school were to lose its status and they were to be denied Irish-medium education as a result. These students and their parents chose Irish-medium education on the understanding that they would be allowed to continue to Leaving Certificate level while immersed in the Irish language. The rights and wishes of these students will be denied if the Department rescind the school’s recognition.

Despite the low enrolment figures in the school at present, there is increasing demand for Irish-medium education at primary level in the area, with pupil numbers increasing in Gaelscoil Bhun Cranncha. It is vital that Coláiste Chineál Eoghain be given time to develop a positive influence on the local gaelscoil to ensure a good transfer rate between the two schools. There is a worry that a decision against the future of Coláiste Chineál Eoghain would have a negative influence on the primary school if the students are not given the opportunity to progress to Irish-medium education at post-primary level. Coláiste Chineál Eoghain caters not only for these students but also for students who travel from Derry for Irish-medium education. This gives the Department and the Government an opportunity to foster cross-border cooperation as per their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to cater for a wide school community. There would be too great a risk to the future of the school if it were converted to an Aonad, and a danger that enrolments would drop even further as a result.

“There is an urgent need to protect the status of Coláiste Chineál Eoghain and to give the school every opportunity to grow and develop” said Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, CEO of GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. “We recognise the importance of ensuring the viability of schools and the effective use of State resources in the provision of education, but this decision is premature. The Inishowen community have demonstrated a dedication to Irish-medium education and it would be disastrous to put an end to an institution at the very heart of that community. The closure of this school would go against every promise made by the State to support Irish-medium education in the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language. We ask that the Department allow the school more time to raise awareness and promote Irish-medium education in the community so that they might achieve viable enrolment figures.”

Co. Donegal VEC have appealed the Department’s decision on behalf of the school and sought an extension of the school’s temporary recognition. The outcome of this appeal is to be announced shortly and it is hoped that the Department will acknowledge the community’s needs and express wish that an Irish-medium post-primary school be available to the students of Inishowen.

Further information:
Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, CEO, GAELSCOILEANNA TEO.
bláthnaid@gaelscoileanna.ie | 01 8535195

Editor’s note:
GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the coordinating body for Irish-medium schools. It provides motivation, assistance and practical support to parents and local communities who wish to found new schools and it operates to support the schools that are already established.