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'Let's be accurate: There's no proposal to bring in new interviews in Irish for Gaelscoils'

‘The policy affects the allocation of less than 1% of places in Gaelscoileanna but is of vital importance to the minority of native speakers involved’, writes Colmán Ó’Drisceoil.

Colmán Ó'Drisceoil Principal of Scoil Lorcáin in Monkstown

HEADLINES SUCH AS ‘Anger over plan to carry out Gaelscoil interviews in Irish’ and ‘Pre-school children may face admission interviews in Irish’ have caused understandable alarm and confusion in recent days.

But there is no proposal to bring in any new ‘interview’ or ‘exam’ or ‘test’ as part of the admissions process in Gaelscoileanna.

All that is being considered is the formal recognition of the current practice in some oversubscribed Gaelscoileanna which give priority in their admissions policy to children who speak Irish as a home language.

Vital importance to native speakers 

Over 95% of children in Gaelscoileanna come from homes where English or foreign languages are spoken and this will continue to be the case. The policy affects the allocation of less than 1% of places in Gaelscoilanna.

It has a negligible effect on overall admissions policy but is of vital importance to the small minority of native speakers involved.

Unfortunately, these children are unable to achieve full competency and literacy in their native language in English medium schools.

The policy is of even more importance to Irish speaking families where there is a child with learning difficulties. These families have enough difficulties trying to access appropriate supports such as speech therapy and Irish speaking SNA’s without facing the additional obstacle of being denied a place in Irish medium education.

Play session 

The process by which this priority allocation occurs is generally that parents state in their application that they are raising the child through Irish. They are then invited to come to a play session in the school with the child.

The child plays with some toys and the school staff observe that Irish is indeed the language of communication between parent and child. There is no more pressure or stress involved than there would be in confirming that a child speaks English as a first language.

There are similar policies in place to ensure the rights of English or French speaking minority populations in Canada, and the Swedish speaking minority in Finland.

Facts 

The rights of speakers of minority language education to mother tongue education are enshrined in several international conventions such as the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which Ireland ratified without reservation in 1992

It seems likely however that the practice of some Gaelscoileanna of interviewing parents as part of their admission process will be disallowed under the proposed legislation.

Whatever people’s opinions are on this policy, it is important that any public debate should be based on the facts, rather than on misleading and alarmist headlines.

Colmán Ó Drisceoil is a member of the Parents Group Cearta Oideachais and the principal of Scoil Lorcáin in Monkstown, Co Dublin.

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About the author:

Colmán Ó'Drisceoil  / Principal of Scoil Lorcáin in Monkstown

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