TWO groups involved in the country’s growing number of gaelscoileanna have rejected the report on future primary school provision, claiming it blocks children’s chances of an all-Irish education.
Around 40,000 children attend 139 all-Irish primary schools, representing 6.5% of all 3,169 primary schools, in addition to the 106 Gaeltacht primary schools.
An Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge, which is patron to 58 non-Gaeltacht all-Irish schools, says the recommendation that parental surveys be used to identify the type of school to be built in areas of population growth will leave those seeking all-Irish education in the minority so the system is not likely to meet their needs.
In a letter published with the report of the Commission on School Accommodation, An Foras Pátrúnachta chief executive Caoimhín Ó hEaghra also says the organisation does not agree with a proposal to establish all-Irish units within some existing English-medium schools to cater for local demand.
“The majority of the population do not have any practical alternative to English-medium education for their children. This is not right. There should be a choice available to them for all-Irish education,” he wrote.
“An Foras cannot support this report because it effectively places an obstacle to the provision of all-Irish education to the children of the country.”
Gaelscoileanna, the voluntary organisation supporting the development of all-Irish schools, also had its concerns published with the report, saying it cannot support it. While it welcomed the positive approach of the Department of Education to date on all-Irish education, it said that all-Irish units have not worked in English -medium schools.
“Over the past 10 years, seven all-Irish units have closed at second level due to lack of support from the department. In addition, it is hard for all-Irish units to create an Irish language ethos since they are surrounded by English,” wrote Gaelscoileanna’s acting chief executive Nóra Ní Loingsigh.
She said there is a need for all-Irish primary schools to have an opportunity to establish in areas of growing population as well as in areas of stable population where there is demand for all-Irish education. “We believe that a change of patron or ethos will not take place in schools for a long time and that in the meantime, many children will lose out on the opportunity to be bilingual at a young age and all the advantages this entails,” Ms Ní Loingsigh wrote.
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