28 December, 2018 - Positive engagement by schools in Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme: Key messages from Inspectorate advisory visits

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh T.D., has today welcomed very positive findings of the first Inspectorate report on the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme and the significant progress made by participating schools. 

Minister McHugh said: “I want to praise the commitment and conscientious efforts of principals and teachers and the support and interest from parents. I am very impressed by the high level of engagement of participating schools in the initial phase of the Scheme’s implementation.” 

The report revealed that early-immersion education is being implemented in junior and senior infants in almost all primary schools participating in the Scheme. 

The report noted that one of the greatest challenges in post-primary schools visited is the use of Irish as the language of communication amongst teenage students, even in the post-primary schools with a high number of native Irish speakers. 

But inspectors found that post-primary schools are eagerly and diligently addressing these significant challenges by encouraging students. The report found that for many post-primary schools it was the first time to focus specifically on this issue as a priority.

The report found that even with the Scheme in its early stages, post-primary schools are reporting small changes in students’ language behaviour, particularly the use of Irish among first-year students, transition-year students and between students and teachers in a few schools.

Minister McHugh said “The progress primary schools are making in implementing early-immersion education in infant classes is hugely impressive. It is tremendously encouraging that early-immersion education is being implemented in almost all schools in the Scheme.

“This substantial progress provides a great incentive for teachers and parents to see the benefits for children of learning the Irish language from a young age. It also might encourage any remaining schools that are not already in the Scheme to join in 2019.”

The Inspectorate report also noted developments at post-primary level, particularly the feedback from schools relating to the teaching of a wider range of subjects through the medium of Irish. 

Minister McHugh said he was pleased to see the initiatives developed as part of the Scheme to support native speakers, learners of Irish and to encourage the use of Irish in the school environment. 

Minister McHugh said: “One of our objectives should be to get young people using the language and make it relevant to their lives. There is valuable guidance and advice in the Inspectorate report to continue to move the implementation process forward so that we can be proud of the efforts made by Gaeltacht schools in supporting our national language and heritage. As it is said, “Beatha teanga í a labhairt” (The life of a language is to speak it).” 

The Inspectorate report summarises feedback given by participating schools to inspectors during advisory visits carried out in the period September to December 2018. The advisory visits were carried out to support the work of the Gaeltacht Education Unit in the Department of Education and Skills in monitoring the early stage of the Scheme’s implementation. 

The Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme provides schools with an opportunity to improve and extend the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. It supports and encourages schools to foster linkages with their school communities and Gaeltacht language-planning committees to support the use of Irish in their area. 

The Minister acknowledged the implementation challenges, particularly at post-primary level and in remote rural areas. He said: “I recognise that schools are experiencing difficulties in recruiting teachers with suitable proficiency in the Irish language to teach different subject areas, especially in remote areas. I hope that the innovative e-Hub pilot initiative will provide support for post-primary schools interested in accessing subjects through the medium of Irish using online teaching and learning approaches.”

The Minister reaffirmed his own commitment to the Irish language. He expressed his intention to provide continuing support for the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme. He said: “A key commitment in the Policy on Gaeltacht Education and the 5-Year Action Plan for Irish is the implementation of the Scheme. Spending on Gaeltacht education will double to almost €5 million in 2019.”

ENDS

Notes for Editor

  • The Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022, which was published in September 2016 is being implemented on a phased basis over a five-year period. Since the establishment of the Gaeltacht Education Unit in the Department in 2017, significant progress has been made in the implementation of a range of Policy actions.
  • The overall objective of the Policy is to ensure that high quality Irish-medium education is available to Gaeltacht communities to preserve and promote Irish as the main language of Gaeltacht communities. Further information in relation to the Policy is available through the following link: FAQs
  • The Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme was launched in April 2017.
  • In the context of the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme, immersion education refers to the practice of teaching all curriculum areas entirely though the medium of Irish, apart from the English curriculum. Early-immersion refers to the practice of implementing a two-year total immersion programme through Irish in infant classes, where English is not taught during this period.
  • 105 primary schools and 28 post-primary schools participating in the Scheme submitted an action plan for improvement to the Aonad um Oideachas Gaeltachta, Department of Education and Skills in Spring 2018. Feedback was provided to each school to inform the continuing development of plans in the school self-evaluation journey towards achieving recognition as a Gaeltacht school operating through the medium of Irish.
  • Inspectorate advisory visits were conducted early in the school year 2018-19 to advise and support schools in the first phase of the implementation of the Scheme.
  • The report on the key messages from the Inspectorate Advisory Visits to schools, participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme, is available at the following link https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/gaeltacht-school-recognition-scheme-key-messages-advisory-visits-summary.pdf  
  • The remaining 28 schools in the Gaeltacht will receive a further opportunity to participate in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme in early Spring 2019. The decision to participate in the Scheme is made by schools in consultation with their board of management, school community and local language-planning committee.