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Irish language advocates looking to Wales for model of secondary school education

18 Mar 2022 2 minute read
Sign at Irish medium school in Newry, Northern Ireland. Public domain.

Advocates of expanding the provision of teaching through the Irish language at secondary schools are looking to Wales for a model of how to ensure that children do not lose the language between primary school and adulthood.

Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, of Gaeloideachas – a representative national body for education through the Irish language – said that parents were showing an increased interest in having their children educated through the medium of Irish but that the provision wasn’t there.

She told The that she would like to see more secondary schools make the shift away from English as their language of instruction, – something that was already taking place in Wales.

“It’s an easier route to take than establishing a new school, especially in areas that don’t need any more schools,” ní Ghréacháin said. “We’ve been looking to Wales to see how that’s been managed, and what we can learn from them.”

The “real challenge” was ensuring that there were teachers with expertise in all the subjects required that had Irish language proficiency, she said.

Cormac McCashin, of An Foras Pátrúnachta, a patron of Irish-medium schools, also said that he looked to Wales for inspiration as to how to turn things around.

He said that there were more Irish language schools (Gaelscoileanna) than Welsh-speaking schools in the early 1980s, but that the situation had now reversed.

“The support for schools there [in Wales] is grounded in legislation and not just lip service,” he said. “I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to tell parents, ‘You have a right to education for your child, but not a right to Irish-medium education.’”

Over 50,000 students attend Gaelscoileanna at primary and second-level on the island of Ireland, compared to around 100,000 who attend Welsh-medium schools in Wales.

The Government of the Republic of Ireland has said that they have established a working group has been established to develop a new policy for Irish-speaking schools outside the Gaeltacht.

The Welsh Government’s ‘Cymraeg 2050’ strategy sets a target to increase the proportion of pupils receiving Welsh-medium education from 22% in 2017 to 40% by 2050.

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