Irish Exemption

How to apply, and where to apply for an exemption from the study of Irish.

A written application for an exemption is made by the parent or guardian to the school principal on behalf of their child.  The application should state the reasons why the exemption is being sought. A child will only be considered for an exemption where his/her educational circumstances come within the provisions of the primary circular in the case of a primary school going child or the post primary circular in the case of a post primary child.   

On what grounds can an exemption from the study of Irish in recognised primary or post primary schools be sought?

An exemption may be sought in the following circumstances, subject to the provisions contained in Department's primary circular or post-primary circular.

  • Children whose primary education up to 11 years of age was received in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland.
  • Children who were enrolled in a recognised primary or post-primary school and who are now re-enrolling again after having been abroad for at least 3 years. The child must also be at least 11 years of age on re-enrolment.
  • Children from abroad who have no understanding of  English, when enrolled, would be required to study one language, either English or Irish.
  • Children of diplomatic or consular representatives in Ireland.
  • Children, in whose case the Minister is satisfied, that they are resident in this country as political refugees.
  • Children assessed as having either a specific or general learning disability who meet the Department’s specific criteria.
  • Children with serious sensory disability.

Both age thresholds and time periods where mentioned are strictly adhered to.

How do I know if an exemption from the study of Irish has been granted?

It is school management who make the decision to grant an exemption, normally the school principal. Where a school has made the decision to grant an exemption a Certificate of Exemption will be given by the school to the parents or guardian.  The certificate will state the grounds on which the exemption is granted and will be signed by the school principal/manager. Parents are advised to retain the certificate for future reference.

How long does an exemption from the study of Irish last?

Once granted an exemption lasts for the duration of the child’s attendance at primary and post-primary schools recognised by the Department of Education and Skills. Where a child transfers between recognised schools or moves from primary to post-primary a copy of the Certificate of Exemption and any supporting documentation should be provided to the new school. The exemption will continue to apply in the new recognised school once supported by evidence that it been granted previously.

Where can I get information on Irish exemptions?

From your school in the first instance by contacting the school principal.  Information is also available from Department of Education and Skills’ Circulars. There are two Circulars one for pupils in recognised primary schools primary circular and the second for pupils in recognised post-primary schools post primary circular.  Both Circulars outline the limited circumstances in which an exemption can be granted, how to make an application, who you apply to and how you know if your child has been granted an exemption.

My child was born outside of Ireland does s/he automatically qualify for an Irish exemption in a recognised primary or post-primary school?

No. Being born outside of Ireland in itself is not one of the limited criteria under which an Irish exemption can be granted.  To be eligible for an exemption in a recognised primary or post-primary school your child needs to meet the criteria of  primary circular or post primary circular.

My child has a learning disability will s/he qualify for an Irish exemption?

Your child may be granted an exemption if s/he meets the criteria of paragraph 1(c ) of  the primary circular if your child attends a recognised primary school or the post primary circular where your child attends a recognised post primary school.

It is school management who make the decision to grant an exemption and to apply under paragraph 1 (c ) you will need the following;

a.      A written application to the school principal specifying the grounds on which the exemption is sought.

b.     A qualified psychologists report dated not more than 2 years from the date of your application.

A recommendation from a psychologist for an exemption to be granted by itself, is not sufficient grounds for a school to grant an exemption.

How many test scores at or below the 10th percentile on a standardised test of reading ability are required in order to be considered for an exemption? 

The Departments Circulars for children attending recognised primary schools primary circular and for children attending recognised post primary schools post primary circular have attached to them Guidelines for psychologists on Assessment and Reporting.

Paragraph 7(i)) of these Guidelines indicate that two scores at or below the 10th percentile are required in order to be considered for an exemption.

In the case of applications based on specific learning disability, an exemption from the study of Irish can be granted where the child (a) has an average IQ score and (b) a word reading score at or below the 10th percentile AND a second attainment score in literacy/language at or below the 10th percentile.

For children with a general learning disability an exemption from the study of Irish can be granted where a child has (a) an IQ score indicating a general learning disability (79 and below) and (b) a word reading score at or below the 10th percentile AND a second attainment score in literacy/language at or below the 10th percentile.

The school has not granted my child an exemption what can I do?

It is the school who makes the decision to grant or not grant an exemption.  Where the school refuses the application they should provide the reason/s for the refusal. The school should also discuss with the parents and student the most appropriate arrangements for the child to continue to study Irish.  

It should be noted that all time periods and deadlines are to be strictly adhered where they are referred to in the exemption provisions in the circular.

Occasionally significant and exceptional circumstances may arise and in such instances it is open to parents and/or the school to seek the advice of the Department of Education and Skills as to the application of the Irish exemptions criteria in such circumstances.

I would like to seek a review of the application of the Irish exemption criteria in my child’s case.  What do I need to do?

Where significant and exceptional circumstances arise, an application for review of the Irish exemptions criteria can be made by writing to irishexemptions@education.gov.ie or to the address on the Department’s website.  This application should be made in consultation with your child’s school and must include all supporting relevant documentation. The Department will review the application.  The review will be carried out in accordance with the criteria for exemptions as outlined in the primary circular in the case of a primary school child or the post primary circular in the case of a post primary child.

The Department will provide its  advice as required.  This advice will be provided both to you and to the principal of your child’s school.

My child has an exemption from the study of Irish what are the implications of not studying Irish in school?

Parents and students should consider the implications that not studying Irish has for entry to some third level universities and colleges and for some jobs in the public service.