Irish Exemption

Exemptions from the Study of Irish

Primary Circular 0052/2019 and Post-Primary Circular 0053/2019

1. Can an application for an exemption from the study of Irish be made on behalf of a pupil/student who is enrolled in an Irish-medium school?

No. The Circulars apply only to recognised English-medium primary and post-primary schools.

2. Can schools that are participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme grant an exemption from the study of Irish under the terms of Circulars 0052/2019 and 0053/2019?

I am the principal of a school that is participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme where at present some but not all subjects are taught through the medium of Irish. I have received an application for an exemption from the study of Irish. I understand that the Circular is for implementation in English-medium schools only. At present, both English and Irish are used in teaching subjects and other areas of the curriculum in this school but it is planned to move to offering and teaching all subjects (except English) and other aspects of the curriculum through Irish and gain recognition as a Gaeltacht school. Until such time as the school achieves status as a Gaeltacht school, can this school grant exemptions from the study of Irish?

The Circular is for implementation in English-medium schools only. It is acknowledged that the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme is currently supporting some participating schools that are in the process of transitioning from being English-medium schools to being Irish-medium schools. Where a school that is participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme reports, for instance on POD or P-POD that English is the medium of instruction in the school (in subjects other than English), the school may apply the terms of Circular 0052/2019 or 0053/2019 as relevant. In the case that an exemption from the study of Irish is granted it should be noted that an exemption held by a pupil/student will continue to be operative until the end of his/her post-primary education.

3. Can a student who has reached 18 years and is enrolled in an Irish-medium school apply for an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. The Circulars apply only to recognised English-medium primary and post primary schools.

4. Can a pupil/student who is home-schooled or attending a school which is not a recognised primary or post-primary school be granted an exemption from the study of Irish?

The Circulars for exemption from the study of Irish are for implementation in the case of pupils/students who are enrolled in recognised primary and post-primary schools. A pupil/student who is home-schooled or enrolled in a school which is not recognised cannot therefore be granted an exemption from the study of Irish.  

5. Under what circumstances may a school consider granting an exemption from the study of Irish?

The only circumstances in which consideration may be given to granting an exemption from the study of Irish in the case of primary schools are set out in Section 2.2a, 2.2b, 2.2c and 2.2d of Circular 0052/2019 and in Section 2.2a, 2.2b and 2.2c of Circular 0053/2019 for post-primary schools.

6. Are there any other situations or circumstances in which a school may consider granting an exemption from the study of Irish?

The only situations or circumstances in which an exemption from the study of Irish may be considered are those set out in each sub-paragraph of Section 2.2 of the Circulars

7. If a pupil/ student moves from a special school/ special class into a mainstream school/ mainstream class, do they need to apply for aCertificate of exemption from the study of Irish?

No. Pupils/Students in special schools/ special classes are exempted without holding a certificate of exemption. Once a pupil/ student holds an exemption from the study of Irish, it may be operational for the duration of their primary and post primary education.

In order for pupils who are exempt from the study of Irish to be recognised when the Department validates school enrolment returns for grant payment and teacher allocation purposes, schools will continue to be required to record data on pupils/ students who are exempt from the study of Irish and the reason for the exemption on the Primary and Post Primary on-line Databases including those who are transferring into the mainstream school/class from a special school/class.

8. Can a pupil who is 11 ½ enrolling in primary school in Ireland for the first time be granted an exemption from the study of Irish?

In the case of an application made under sub-paragraph 2.2a of the Circulars, an exemption may be granted where the pupil has received his/her education up to 12 years of age (or up to and including the final year of their primary education) outside the State and where he/she did not have opportunity to engage in the study of Irish.

If the pupil has completed his/her primary education outside the state and this primary education did not include the study of Irish, and if the School Principal is satisfied that there is evidence to this effect, then an exemption can be granted.

In the case of an application made under sub-paragraph 2.2.d, a child of a foreign diplomat or consular representative in Ireland may be exempt from the study of Irish irrespective of their age.

In such cases, where the pupil has no understanding of English when enrolled, he/she should be provided with intensive English as an Additional Language (EAL) support in preparation for his/her full engagement with the Primary Language Curriculum at a level commensurate with his/her ability.

9. Can a pupil who is enrolling in school in Ireland and has no understanding of English or Irish be exempted from the study of Irish?

If the grounds for application are in line with the exceptional circumstances as set out in Section 2.2 of the Circulars and the pupil meets those criteria, then he/she may be granted an exemption from the study of Irish.

If not, in accordance with Section 4 of the Circular, the pupil should be provided with intensive English as an Additional Language (EAL) support in preparation for his/her full engagement with the Primary Language Curriculum at a level commensurate with his/her ability.

10. What tests should be used in considering an application for an exemption from the study of Irish?

Guidance on the selection of tests is available on the Department’s website:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Irish-Exemption/irish-exemption1.html

Note: A literacy attainment score at/below the 10th percentile in either Word Reading or Reading Comprehension or Spelling is only one aspect of the criteria to be taken into consideration when processing applications for exemption from the study of Irish in line with sub-paragraph 2.2c of the Circulars.

11. What is a discreet test?

A discrete test is a standalone test which assesses a single literacy skill – in this case a test of either Word Reading or Reading Comprehension or Spelling.

See Guidance on the selection of discreet tests of literacy attainment in English available on the Department’s website.

12. Is a test score at/ below the 10th percentile in one test sufficient to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. In addition to a test score at/below the 10th percentile in one test (Word Reading, Reading Comprehension or Spelling), the pupil/student must have reached at least 2nd class and must also present with significant and persistent learning difficulties despite having had access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning over time. Documentary evidence to this effect is required including a Student Support Plan detailing:

  • Regular reviews of learning needs as part of an ongoing cycle of assessment
  • Target setting
  • Evidence informed intervention and review, including test scores (word reading, reading comprehension, spelling, other scores of language/literacy) at key points of review.

13. What is meant by a significant and persistent learning difficulty?

Significant learning difficulties are those which are persistent despite ongoing intervention and review.   In the context of this circular a student who is experiencing significant literacy difficulties to such a degree that their scores remain below the 10th percentile and who does not demonstrate improvement despite intervention is likely to require additional supports.   

Special Educational Needs: A Continuum of Support provides further information and support for schools in this regard.

14. What is the time frame for monitoring a differentiated approach to language before an exemption may be granted?

There is no prescriptive time frame for monitoring a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning in both English and Irish. It is a matter for the school management to consider, in accordance with the principles of inclusion underpinning the Circular and in consultation with the pupil’s parent(s)/ guardian(s), the class teacher, special education teachers and the pupil, if the evidence documented in the Student Support File shows significant and persistent learning difficulties over time. Further information for schools on this process is available in Special Educational Needs: A Continuum of Support.

15. Is a psychological report or a report from an appropriate medical specialist confirming a significant learning difficulty or a test score at/below the 10th percentile sufficient grounds to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. A psychological report or a report from a medical specialist is no longer required. If such a report is already available, it may provide useful information to inform areas of need for intervention.

16. Is a psychological report or a report from an appropriate medical specialist recommending an exemption from the study of Irish sufficient grounds to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. A psychological report is no longer a requirement for granting an exemption from the study of Irish.

The school may have psychological reports for some students.  These may be useful to help inform the school in relation to need and identify interventions, but are no longer a requirement and are not the primary supporting document for granting an exemption from Irish which is a matter for the school.  While an external report might recommend an exemption, it is up to the school to decide if they have the evidence, (ongoing support, response to intervention and current level of need as identified in school testing) when considering the exceptional circumstances in which an exemption should be granted.

17. Is it necessary for the school to carry out the testing required or can this be done externally to the school?

While the school may have external evidence/ report of a test result at/below the 10th percentile, it is up to the school to decide if they have the evidence of ongoing support, response to intervention and current level of need as identified in school testing when considering the exceptional circumstances in which an exemption may be granted.

Further information on selection of tests is available on the Department’s website: https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Irish-Exemption/irish-exemption1.html

Further support material for schools is available in Special Educational Needs: A Continuum of Support.

18. Is a pupil/student who has an exemption from the study of Irish required to be excluded from the Irish class?

In line with the Department’s policy of inclusion, schools are expected and encouraged to provide all pupils to the greatest extent possible and in a meaningful way, with opportunities to participate in Irish language and cultural activities at a level appropriate to their learning needs.

19. Is a pupil/student with an exemption from the study of Irish, also exempt from studying foreign languages?

Circulars 0052/2019 and 0053/2019 are for exemption from the study of Irish only. Where an exemption from the study of Irish is granted, it should not be interpreted as an exemption from the study of Irish and other languages. In accordance with the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools (2004) and the Framework for Junior Cycle 2015, the study of foreign languages is optional.

20. Is a student with an exemption from the study of Irish, also considered exempt from Foreign Languages for 3rd level entry purposes?

3rd level entry requirements are a matter for the individual institution. Some 3rd level institutions may waive a foreign language entry requirement in the case of a student with an exemption from the study of Irish. Parents/guardians should familiarise themselves with such 3rd level entry requirements and any implications which may arise due to the holding of an exemption from the study of Irish.

21. Can I appeal the school principal’s decision not to grant my child an exemption from the study of Irish?

The school principal, on behalf of the board of management, has the authority to grant an exemption from the study of Irish in accordance with the criteria set out in the Circulars. The school principal must follow the procedures set out in the Circulars and in the Guidelines when considering an application for an exemption.

If the parent/ guardian is not satisfied that the school principal has followed the correct procedures in making a decision to refuse to grant an exemption from the study of Irish, then the parent/ guardian can complete an Irish Exemption Appeal Form setting out the specific reason(s) why the decision is being appealed and the circumstances in which it is considered that the process has not been correctly applied.

The completed Irish Exemption Appeal Form should be submitted within 30 calendar days from the date the decision of the school not to grant an exemption was notified in writing to the parent(s)/ guardian(s)

22. Where do I send an Irish Exemption Appeal Form to?

An Irish Exemption Appeal can be submitted by e-mail: Irishexemptionappeal@education.gov.ie or by post to Schools Financial and Database Section, Department of Education and Skills, Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, N37 X659.

23. I am 18. Can I apply for an exemption from the study of Irish or appeal a decision not to grant me an exemption?

A student who has reached the age of 18 years may make their own application for an exemption from the study of Irish. A student who has reached the age of 18 years, may also appeal a decision by school management to refuse to grant them an exemption from the study of Irish.

24. What are the implications of not studying Irish for my child?

Irish language requirements for National University of Ireland (NUI) Matriculation purposes and entry requirements to degree courses / programmes of study is at the discretion of the NUI. Other colleges and universities also have the autonomy to set their own entry requirements. These requirements may be subject to change and it is therefore important that schools access the relevant information. Information on entry requirements can be accessed on college websites. Typically, at post-primary level, guidance teachers have access to this information.

It is important that parents/guardians and pupils/students are made aware that Irish is an entry requirement for access to programmes for initial teacher education (primary) offered in the four state funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs):

  •  Marino Institute of Education, Griffith Ave., Dublin 9 (www.mie.ie)
  • Mary Immaculate College, Limerick (www.mic.ul.ie
  • DCU Institute of Education, DCU, St. Patrick’s Campus, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 (www.dcu.ie)
  • Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Co Kildare (www.maynoothuniversity.ie)

The DES sets the minimum entry requirements for entry to the above programmes including the core subjects of Irish, English and Mathematics. Information on entry requirements is available at https://www.education.ie/en/Education-Staff/Information/-New-Teachers/-Initial-Teacher-Education-ITE-Primary.html

25. Where can I get an Irish Exemption Appeal Form?

From the Department’s website:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Irish-Exemption/irish-exemption1.html

26. Where can I find more information/ contact details?

Further information and contact details are available on the Department’s website:

https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/Irish-Exemption/irish-exemption1.html