Belfast Telegraph

Call for strategy to produce more teachers for Irish medium education

Colaiste Feirste in west Belfast. Credit: Google
Colaiste Feirste in west Belfast. Credit: Google

One of the heads of Irish-medium education in Northern Ireland has called for a government strategy to produce more qualified teachers for the sector.

Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta (CnG) Chief Executive Liam O Flannagain said there were currently not enough teachers to meet the demand.

Northern Ireland currently has two post-primary schools which teach Irish, and three post-primary schools with Irish-medium streams.

There are over 30 Irish-medium primary schools in Northern Ireland and a number of nursery schools.

Figures from the Department of Education (DE) show that 6,200 pupils were educated through the Irish-medium in 2017/18, a rise of 1,500 since 2012/13.

Mr O Flannagain told the BBC that the number of pupils in Irish-medium post primary education was increasing by 8% a year.

"With the overall growth in demand, there is pressure for more IM post primary teachers at all levels going into the future with an immediate need for post primary teachers particularly with STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and other specialist subjects," he said.

He said that up to 10 new teachers were needed in specialist subject areas for the coming school year.

Mr O Flannagain called on the Department of Education and teacher training providers to "agree a strategy to increase the supply of teachers to the sector, in order to keep up with the growth in demand."

He said that the development of a specialist Irish-medium post-primary PGCE teaching course with a post-primary B.ED course, which would allow Irish to be taught alongside specialist subjects like maths, science and technology.

CnG called for courses to be offered to let qualified teachers learn Irish to allow them to work in Irish-medium education.

Colaiste Feirste in Belfast is the largest Irish-medium school in Northern Ireland with around 650 pupils.

Head teacher Micheal Mac Giolla Gunna said there was an urgent need for a plan to increase the number of Irish-medium teachers.

"It is disgraceful that 28 years after Colaiste Feirste opened its doors, and 10 years after DE's Review of Irish-medium Education highlighted teacher training and supply as a major issue, there is still no post-primary B.Ed or PGCE for Irish-medium teachers," he told the BBC.

"DE should resource a teacher-training institution to develop and run such a course as part of a wider strategy to facilitate and support the development of Irish-medium education."

The DE told the BBC that eight PGCE places were earmarked next year for Irish-medium teaching in the post-primary sector.

"The department is engaging with the IM sector regarding its concerns about the availability of IM post-primary school teachers," the spokesperson said.

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