1. What is the Gaeltacht Education Policy?
The Department of Education and Skills’ Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022, published in October 2016, responds to the Government’s 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and is one of the Department’s commitments in the Action Plan for Education 2016–2019.
The Policy is the Department of Education and Skills’ strategic response to address the linguistic challenges facing the Gaeltacht. The Policy focuses on maintaining and securing the vitality of Gaeltacht areas as the home of Irish-speaking communities. It recognises the uniqueness of the Gaeltacht as an area of significant linguistic, cultural and economic importance.
The Policy is set out under seven pillars, as follows:
- Strengthening the structure of educational provision
- Improving the quality of teaching through Irish
- Building the capacity of school leaders and school management
- Improving the curriculum for Irish
- Improving language resources and supports
- Strengthening early-years’ educational provision
- Building awareness of the benefits of Irish-medium education, communicating with, and supporting parents.
The Policy is designed to ensure the availability of a high quality and relevant Irish-medium educational experience for young people in the Gaeltacht. It aims to build on the advantages and linguistic strengths which exist in the Gaeltacht in conjunction with local language-planning processes. It seeks to strengthen Irish-medium educational provision through a range of actions and targeted supports in the Gaeltacht.
2. What is the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme?
All schools in Gaeltacht language-planning areas have been invited to apply to participate in a Scheme to achieve recognition as a Gaeltacht school. Schools that commit to becoming Gaeltacht schools will, through their school self-evaluation processes (SSE), develop a whole-school action plan for improvement that will demonstrate clearly how the school will fulfil the requirements of the recognition process in a staged way and how it will build linkages with its local community to foster the use of the Irish language.
Schools, whose action plans are approved, will be granted additional resources and supports, including dedicated continuing professional development (CPD), on a staged basis, as the recognition process commences and as each stage of it is successfully achieved. In addition, recognised Gaeltacht schools will also have an opportunity to work towards becoming Gaeltacht Schools of Excellence/ Scoileanna Gaeltachta Barr Feabhais in conjunction with current and new award programmes.
3. Who decides whether a school will be part of the Scheme or not?
The whole community should be involved with the decision of a school to participate in the Scheme. Following consultation with the school community, the principal, in conjunction with the board of management and the chairperson of the local language-planning committee, will apply to the Gaeltacht Education Unit in the Department of Education and Skills to join the Scheme.
4. How will participation in the Scheme affect schools?
Each school in the Gaeltacht that applies to participate in the Scheme will be required to develop a whole-school action plan for improvement to show how the school proposes to make improvements to the provision of Irish-medium education linked to language-based criteria , as outlined in Circular 0033/2017 for primary schools and 0034/2017 for post-primary schools. The Department’s Inspectorate will assist, advise and provide feedback to schools throughout the process. Each participating school’s action plan for improvement will be reviewed by the Department in Spring 2018 in preparation for its implementation from September 2018.
Schools will be required to operate entirely through the medium of Irish, apart from the English and other language curricula, in accordance with language-based criteria. Schools will be enabled to achieve this recognition through a staged, incremental process over a period of five years. Additional resources will be provided to schools participating in the Scheme from autumn 2017.
5. What is a Language-Planning Area?
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has identified 26 Gaeltacht language-planning areas under the Gaeltacht Act 2012. Údarás na Gaeltachta is responsible for supporting community organisations to prepare and implement language plans in order to preserve and strengthen the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. Each language-planning area has a planning lead organisation or committee. Under the Gaeltacht Act, 2012, schools are required to foster links and cooperate with that organisation or committee.
6. How will our schools’ participation in the Scheme affect my child?
The purpose of the Scheme is to ensure the availability of high quality and relevant Irish-medium education for your child and other children attending a primary or post-primary school in the Gaeltacht.
7. How will the Policy affect early-years’ settings in the Gaeltacht?
The Policy notes the importance of providing high quality Irish-medium education in early-years settings and of fostering Irish-language proficiency and usage in the wider Gaeltacht community. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Údarás na Gaeltachta (with the support of Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta) and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have responsibility for the implementation of the Policy in early-years settings. It is envisaged that supports will be provided by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Udarás na Gaeltachta to strengthen the provision of early-years’ education through Irish in the Gaeltacht.
8. What will happen if my child’s school does not express an interest in the Scheme at this stage?
The Department of Education and Skills strongly advises schools to participate in the Scheme from the start in view of the educational advantages regarding language learning, and also as a means of responding positively to the current challenges facing the status of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht. While early participation in the Scheme is advised, schools in Gaeltacht language-planning areas will be given the option to participate in the Scheme at a later stage during the five-year term of the Policy.