Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, this week announced plans for the development of the first comprehensive Irish-medium education policy with an ambitious target of doubling the number of young people in Irish medium schools to 120,000.
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 and is a core aim of the Government’s 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030. The policy will build on the success already achieved in implementing the wide-ranging actions in the Policy on Gaeltacht Education.
“Naíonraí and Irish-medium schools play a vital role in developing identity and fluency in our language," Minister McHugh said. "The benefits of full language 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 Minister will convene a special consultation process in the spring and has requested that any consultation includes the voice of students and parents. “This is a big opportunity to learn from others, to seize initiatives and to develop ideas," the Minister said. "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 naíonraí. 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 the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with the work overseen by an inter-departmental steering committee and advisory committee.
The Minister added: “The work will look closely at creating a clear policy on the establishment of aonaid lán-Ghaeilge in existing schools and also the establishment of new Gaelscoileanna, Gaelcholáistí and aonaid lán-Ghaeilge as part of the new patronage process. 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.”