August 27, 2013
Tears flowed for infants and parents parting at the classroom door for the first time, but they are not the only ones marking new beginnings this week.
The doors to 11 new schools will swing open over the coming days in response to the latest baby boom. These are newly established schools, separate to new buildings that may be occupied by existing schools. Among them are seven primary schools taking in their first infant classes, five in Dublin, and one each in counties Cork and Kildare. There are two new Galway second-level schools and one each in Dublin and Meath. All 11 are multi- denominational schools under the patronage of Educate Together, local education and training boards (formerly vocational education committees), or An Foras Pátrúnachta. Many are in temporary premises until new purpose-built schools are ready to occupy, but they will only be enrolling infant or first-year classes each year, so it will be a number of years before they all need to have permanent full-capacity accommodation.
The largest new primary school is the Rochestown Educate Together National School in the southside suburb of Cork. It will eventually have a 24-classroom school although it will not be completed this year. But the infant class has already had a taste of what lies ahead in their temporary home at the Douglas Hall soccer club grounds. A play day for incoming pupils at the weekend gave children and parents a chance to meet each other and their teacher Noirín Moore. “The children were very excited to see where their new school will be. We look forward to meeting them all for their first day of school on Thursday, and having a cup of tea or coffee with the parents to mark this special occasion in the lives of their family,” said principal Alan Sheehan. While there are no faith-based schools opening this year, two new denominational second-level schools are set to enrol their first students in 2014. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced a year ago that a Church of Ireland school is to open in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
A new school will also open in a year’s time in the Mulhuddart/ Tyrellstown area of Dublin under the patronage of Le Chéile Schools Trust. The eight other second- level schools set to open in Sept 2014 include three all-Irish schools, in Carrigaline, Co Cork, and Balbriggan and Dundrum in Dublin. An all-Irish unit is to be attached to a new school opening in Maynooth, Co Kildare, with the prospect of it becoming an independent Gaelcholáiste if enough enrolment interest is shown in the first four years.
August 26, 2013
It is the long-awaited fulfilment of a dream for many families and teachers in a West Cork town.
On this Wednesday, students and teachers will march through Clonakilty town to a new, purpose-built gaelscoil. At 10.15am, they will assemble for the last time at the school’s leased classrooms in the Waterfront Buildings on Clarke St. From there, they will leave on foot, walking through the town centre to the new state-of-the-art Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin on Fernhill Road at the western end of Clonakilty. School principal Carmel Nic Airt said the walk should take approximately 20 minutes. “On arrival, there will be a ceremonial raising of the school flag at the new building,” she said. Furthermore, local historian Tim Crowley and wife Dolores, who run the Michael Collins Centre, will present one of a limited series of miniature statues of Michael Collins — similar to a seven feet monument erected at Emmet Square.
The miniature will be on display at the new Gaelscoil building. Ms Nic Airt said that a member of Michael Collins’ family will also be present at the occasion, as will the Mayor of Clonakilty, Phil O’Regan.
Gaelscoil Chloch na gCoillte, as it was first known, started in Sep 1994 with Carmel Nic Airt as its only teacher in charge of just 20 pupils. “Over the years it has moved half a dozen times to rented buildings in various locations around Clonakilty town as pupil and staff numbers grew,” This week, the new term will witness more than 265 pupils and 25 staff move into the new building.
June 4, 2013
Lost for words:
I can’t speak Irish. The only song I know in Irish is Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’, and I can do about four lines.
WITH my summer exam done, I realised that I am terrible at Irish. I don’t think I am the only one. I am proud of the language and I love hearing it being spoken perfectly, but hearing it being spoken as well as English is rare. Is Irish taught well?
I can barely construct a sentence. We did a mock oral and I kept saying ‘anois’. My sentences weren’t making sense. An example:
‘Last summer, I went out with friends now and now I went to matches’. If you handed that up in an English class, you would be booted down to the ordinary level.
Instead of reading those weird Irish books in national school, we should be taught the basic grammar rules. We should learn how to construct sentences in past tense, present tense, and future tense. We should also get a start on the dreaded, most feared tense ever…the modh coinníollach, the conditional tense. The ‘I would, you would, he or she would’, and so on. If we learned how to use the verb correctly, that would be half the battle.
My cousin told me her child can do ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ in Irish and I was quite impressed. The only song I know in Irish is Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’, and I can do about four lines. I know it because one of the girls who went to the gaeltacht kept singing it.
The gaeltacht should get better press. When people talk about the gaeltacht, I hear all about the ‘craic agus ceoil’. I would love if my Irish classes could be that exciting and fun.
Irish is a complex language and beautiful to hear. I realised how stunning it sounded when I went to see Ballingeary play Kiskeam, and the Ballingeary bench talked in Irish. It was nice to hear, a team spurred on in our native language.
I would love to revive the Irish language and I would like to visit the gaeltacht and learn ‘cupla focail’. I’d love to be able to go abroad and talk in my native language. I would encourage the Irish to learn a few words and embrace their language, embrace it like French people embrace French, and the Spanish people embrace Spanish.
I certainly do not want my language to fizzle out and I do not want us to lose more of our national identity. So let’s make Irish fun, let’s teach kids grammar and let’s encourage teenagers to go to the gaeltacht and have craic, and learn the cupla focail, and let’s revive our language before it’s gone for good. . Because, after all, it’s what makes us who we are.
May 22, 2013
Online resource for Irish choirs is on-song Soprano Deirdre Moynihan,centre,with Coláiste Choilm Ballincollig students Evan McCába, Ciara O’Hanlon, Aoife McPolin and Luke Gallagher
Launched during the Cork International Choral Festival earlier this month, Deirdre Moynihan’s Choirs CAN project is a free online resource for choirs and amateur singers. The resource taps soprano and fiddle player Moynihan’s experience in classical and traditional music.
Moynihan says of Choirs CAN, which she produces: “It began about 12 months ago, as an idea to bring traditional songs into the realm of choral music. I wanted to make it accessible for everyone, not just in Ireland, but to choirs all over the world. The idea was to provide practical tools for choirs and conductors.
“Having spoken to people about it, there was a general consensus that there is a lack of arrangements, so I consulted them to see what they’d need.
“They were excited about having more Irish music available to them.” Moynihan successfully applied for funding from the Arts Council of Ireland, through the Deis award and Forais na Gaelige.
Their support allowed her to make imaginative, four-part choral arrangements, of eight traditional songs, available on her website to amateur choirs. The downloads include not just sheet music, but recordings of all the works by Moynihan’s choir, Moving Voices, and audio-learning aids for singers who learn better by ear.
An Irish pronunciation guide is included for each song, too.
“It’s nice to have the recordings as a reference. I think, it makes them less daunting,” Moynihan says. Moynihan made four of the arrangements,
commissioning two each from composers Andrew Synott and Mark Armstrong.
“The brief, for all of us, was to arrange something that would be suitable for secondary school and non-professional adult choirs, and to maintain the integrity of the traditional song.
“Within the set, there’s a variety in terms of style and difficulty. I really do think there’s something there for everybody. There’s a lot of fun to be had with them and
I think choirs will really enjoy singing them,” Moynihan says. Some 500 singers took part in the first public performance from the collection, during the ‘big sing’ at Cork International Choral Festival on the May bank holiday. Members of choirs from Ireland and abroad joined the public at the annual event, which was conducted by John O’Brien. Conducting from the stage of Cork City Hall, O’Brien formed a choir in 45 minutes, from the singers filling the auditorium, to singing Moynihan’s arrangement of ‘Óró sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’.
The project injects accessible choral music into a repertoire that can stagnate, with the same pieces of music being performed time and again in competition and concert.
The songs chosen all come from the seminal publication, Cas Amhrán, by Micheál Ó
hEidhin, a former schools’ inspector of music who died last year. “It was a little bluebook produced by the Department of Education in the 1970s,”says Moynihan. “My father used to teach us songs out of it, and I do find, when I mention it as a source, it’s very recognisable to a lot of people.
It had over a hundred songs, with lovely illustrations.” Choirs CAN represents an effective model for making participatory music accessible to the public for free, demonstrating a use of public funds that merits further exploration.
“I can certainly see it expanding in the future,” Moynihan says. “It will be interesting to see how much choirs use the resource.
May 10, 2013
It emerged this week that pupils attend-ing private schools and those opting to take the Leaving Certificate through Irish were in the two highest categories that progressed to third-level education directly.
I have no issue with private education as people pay extra for this resource and should expect a delivery on their investment. However, I do have an issue with the Leaving Cert through Irish.
People opting to do the exam through Irish have a com-petitive advantage over their peers, both private and state. They are awarded extra points for nothing and therefore have an unfair advantage. It is now mainstream to do the Leaving in Irish and it’s time to re-move this distorted corruption of the State exam points system.
The argument for getting extra points through Irish is not clear , Ibelieve it is a benefit for opting to do the exam in the ‘native’ language rather than the everyday language of Ireland [English]. However ,if one were to be rational about it, there are many immigrant children now in Ireland doing their Leaving in their non-native second language, English. Surely they should be given a similar advantage for completing the exam in their non-native tongue?
Let’s level the playing field here and see how the statistics read in six years’ time. It is interesting to see that 10% of a gap ex-ists between Irish opting students and the next English opting exam students. Ibe-lieve the Irish opting student gets 10% of the marks they didn’t get, free gratis, which ranges between 0 and 6%. I suspect the gap would narrow should the English opt-ing student get those extra marks. It’s enough to push a student up a grade and up in points!
The other item to note, is it time to drop the compulsory requirement to do Irish in non-Irish schools? This would truly level the playing field, and those passionate about Irish could attend and do Irish as a Leaving subject, do all their subjects through Irish with no extra advantage, and those who do not wish to do so could opt out altogether from doing Irish as a subject and restore parity by selecting a subject more suited to their aptitudes. The State exam would then at least be the same for everyone, at present it is not.
Being advantageous to one group at the mercy of others lessens its worth, like it or not. The statistics may be a bit more credible also as they will compare like-for -like.
April 3, 2013
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn failed to convince teachers there will not be further pay cuts or small rural school closures.
He told the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation annual congress in Cork that a report he intends to bring to Cabinet says that a four-teacher school is the optimum, minimum size for smaller schools.
But while the value-for-money review by his department says it would make teaching and learning more manageable, as no teacher would have more than two class groups, Mr Quinn insisted the report does not mean there will be forced closures of schools with one, two, or three teachers.
“There is, and will continue to be, a need for small schools to exist in rural and isolated communities,” Mr Quinn told delegates. “Rather [than forced closures], this national policy would mean that over time any reconfiguration of schools would be guided by that optimum minimum size.”
Mr Quinn later told reporters that the value-for-money review, commissioned by the previous government, takes account of the additional costs amalgamations would add to budgets for school building and transport. However, his words offered no reassurance to delegates who spoke on a motion seeking an improved campaign to protect small schools.
The policy is seen as a way to force them to decide on amalgamations, instead of having it decided by the minister or his department.
April 2, 2013
Parents in just 60% of towns dominated by Catholic primary schools have voted to have control handed over to different patrons.
Educate Together has emerged as the preferred patron to take over one of the local schools in 20 of the 23 areas where there was enough demand for choice.
But the most surprising outcome of the surveys — completed in January by parents of almost 20,000 primary school pupils and pre-school children — was that the vast majority in 15 out of 38 areas were satisfied with the current provision.
The research was carried out by the Department of Education in areas where there is little or no alternative to Catholic schools, but where populations are not growing enough for new schools to be built.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said up to half of all Catholic primary schools may need to be divested, but the level of demand shows this is not the case. He wants bishops in each of the 23 areas where change is recommended to provide details within six months on how they plan to make schools available to patrons.
For recommended new patrons by town, see http://exa.mn/hn
March 26, 2013
After some tough talking as gaeilge, three sixth-year students from Scoil Mhuire in Cork have won the prestigious Gael Linn national debating competition, becoming the first Cork school to scoop the Irish language debating title.
Team captain Aisling Hourihan, Emma Dobson and Zoe Boland opposed the motion that the Irish people have lost their national identity. They interpreted identity as closely associated with culture, language, sport and homegrown Irish heroes with whom the nation identifies.
The team, coached by Samantha Mulcahy with help from teacher Eileen Dineen, argued convincingly, in their native tongue, the Irish still have a very strong national identity. They were presented with the Corn An Phiarsaigh and each girl also won a cash prize.
“The girls are a credit to the school and their families that they are so passionate about Irish language,” a Scoil Mhuire spokesperson said.
“It is a great honour and a credit for the school that they have become the first Cork school to win this competition.
“We are not an all-Irish language school but we do put huge emphasis on oral Irish and we are delighted to get recognition for that.”
The girls made it through to the national final after talking their way through the Munster round of competition opposing the motion ‘tá mórchinntí an rialtais seo ar leas an náisiúin’ —that this Government’s major decisions are benefiting the nation — and defeating Presentation College, The Mardyke, Cork, Pobalscoil Eoin Baiste, Hospital, Co Limerick, and Laurel Hill Secondary School, Limerick.
March 20, 2013
Your editorial (Mar 13) would be comical if it were not so ill-informed.
You offer no evidence for the alleged €1 billion annual spend on Irish. How is this quantified? Is money spent on childcare (good) through the medium of Irish (bad) included? Are schools which don’t teach Irish for more that 20 minutes a day included?
You quote the budget of TG4, which gave us Ireland’s first teen drama and myriad quality TV shows, in comparison with RTÉ Two, for example, which costs much more and adds very little to viewer choice in its rebroadcasting of foreign shows.
Is money spent on gaelscoileanna a spend on education (good) or on Irish (bad)? Does it cost more to ensure that public servants serving Irish speaking areas are bilingual? Answer: No.
Our appalling English-only attitude has left us the odd man out in Europe with no respect for either our own history, culture and language or that of anyone else. Consumerism has not lead to happiness. Self-confidence and self-worth will. Time to see the value of our language, and of ourselves.
Irish has no intrinsic monetary value or use, much like Shakespeare, ballet and laughter. Irish is not much used in working life, like calculus, integration or the history of WWII.
Are we all to be trained to be unthinking cogs in a wheel? Each language is a different way of thinking. We need to think in a different way. And had you checked the record you would see that more Irish is spoken in the European Parliament that Maltese, Estonian or Latvian.
Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL
March 19, 2013
The view in your editorial (Throwing good money after bad? Mar 13) is built on the supposed fact “that we spend something around €1bn a year just teaching
Irish.” This figure is rubbish.
What’s the annual budget for the Department of Education and how could it be claimed that the teaching of Irish could account for such a high proportion of it?
It is absurd to suggest that €1bn a year could be saved from the education budget by scrapping Irish. The writer assumes that the policy of the State has been a failure. On the contrary, and given the incompetence of many of those charged with responsibility, the policy has been remarkably successful.
Most Irish people are sympathetic to the language and 1.5m of them claim competence in it. I agree, it’s a poor reflection on the education system if some people don’t know a ‘capall’ from a ‘bó’ or ‘bainne’ from ‘tae’. With TG4, new social media, etc, Irish has a greater presence in the public space than ever before. It also has a greater capacity to attract and mould a new language community.
If Irish is to have a future, it will be as a second language, of choice (teanga roghnaithe), for citizens who want to use it. In the David and Goliath context, in which Irish struggles to survive, there is little or no public understanding of the concept of a second language of choice. The attitude is ‘why would you use Irish when everyone speaks English, and you have perfect English yourself?’
This was the underlying attitude in the case in the annual report of An Coimisinéir Teanga — of the Garda who arrested the young man who wanted to conduct his business through Irish. The constitutional position of Irish notwithstanding, historically there has never been much acceptance among the public for the linguistic rights of the Irish-speaking minority, be they native speakers or speakers by choice.
Paradoxically, as Irish retreats in the Gaeltacht, and as its wider public profile increases (thanks mainly to TG4), there are indications that a more positive attitude is beginning to emerge. The Government needs to build on this. Most of all, government policy needs to be focused on making it possible for people to use Irish in the public domain.
In fairness, this was the thinking behind the Oireachtas’s unanimous passing of the Official Languages Act, 10 years ago. As usual, the sentiment was correct, but the practical steps needed to make it happen have so far been lacking.
Seán Mag Leannáin
Co Chill Mhantáin