Belfast Telegraph

Plans to double number of students in Irish-medium education unveiled

Ambitious target to be set as Minister orders first comprehensive policy on Irish-medium education

Plans to double the number of students in Irish-medium education have been unveiled by the Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Niall Carson/PA)
Plans to double the number of students in Irish-medium education have been unveiled by the Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Niall Carson/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Plans to double the number of students in Irish-medium education have been unveiled.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced the goal for the development of the first, comprehensive Irish-medium education policy.

The new policy will provide a framework for the delivery of high-quality Irish-medium education in schools and early-years settings outside the Gaeltacht.

This is one of the aims of the Government’s 20-year strategy for the Irish language.

There are about 60,000 young people in Irish-medium schools right across the country and I want to see an ambitious target set to double that Joe McHugh

There are currently more than 45,000 students attending primary Irish-medium schools, while almost 17,00 students attend post-primary Irish-medium schools.

Mr McHugh said: “Naionrai and Irish-medium schools play a vital role in developing identity and fluency in our language.

“The benefits of full immersion in early years and in school are internationally recognised both for a child’s holistic development and also for acquiring the aptitude for other languages.

“There are about 60,000 young people in Irish-medium schools right across the country and I want to see an ambitious target set to double that.”

The work will be informed by national and international research into good practice in other countries or jurisdictions, like Wales or Quebec, as well as the initial findings of the Research and Evaluation Study on the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme.

The Minister is to convene a special consultation process in the spring and has said that any consultation should include the voice of students and parents.

He added: “This is a big opportunity to learn from others, to seize initiatives and to develop ideas. Doubling the numbers in Irish-medium education is a big challenge but we can meet that ambition head on by creating the right foundations in our naionrai.

“We should also be looking at ways to deepen community engagement around Irish-medium early years and schools.

“I think we also need to look at incentives to attract students from Gaeltacht areas to teaching and how we can increase the supply of those with a high standard of Irish to work in Irish-medium education settings across the board.  We can also consider how we can improve opportunities for gaelscoileanna to expand.”

The policy will be developed in collaboration with other relevant departments including the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The work will be overseen by an inter-departmental steering committee and supported by an advisory committee comprised of relevant stakeholders.

The Minister added: “This new policy for Irish-medium education will raise the profile of our language in our communities and I believe it will also encourage the daily use of Irish inside and outside our schools.”

PA

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