Six new post-primary schools are planned to open in 2020 and all are English-medium schools. Gaeloideachas, which promotes Irish-medium education, has criticised the process for selecting these schools.
The organisation said that a significant number of parents in the catchment areas for the new schools had expressed a preference for Irish-medium education and are very unhappy that all six of the schools will be English-medium schools.
Since 2011, the Department of Education have used a system based on parental expressions of interest to determine what kind of new schools will be established. Fewer new Irish-medium schools have been established as a result, says Gaeloideachas, because the process is weighted against the smaller number of parents who would choose a gaelscoil or gaelcholáiste.
In the consultations re the six newly-announced schools, 425 parents chose Irish-medium education as their preference for their children. The demand was particularly significant in Dublin 6, where 172 parents chose Irish-medium education, and in Kilcoole, with 130 parents choosing it.
An alternative to Gaelcholáistí?
The Department has indicated that it will consult immediately with the patrons of the two new schools in Dublin 6 and Kilcoole to examine whether an aonad (an Irish language unit) should open as part of their new schools and if so, when it should open.
Gaeloideachas says that there is a huge difference, however, between an Irish-medium post-primary school and an aonad. An aonad is a unit that provides post-primary education through Irish, but that operates under the roll number and management of an English-medium school.
There are no criteria to ensure that quality Irish-medium education across a range of subjects will be provided in an aonad, however, and it is not a given that the model of immersion education, nationally and internationally recognised as best practice, will be implemented, they say.
“We’re very unhappy that the aonad model is being pushed again as the solution to providing Irish medium education at post-primary level” said Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, Gaeloideachas CEO.
“It’s too vulnerable a model, and it doesn’t deliver quality. The Department doesn’t have a policy on what an aonad should provide or how it should be run.”
Gaeloideachas has been campaigning for the reform of the process to establish new schools, so that equal opportunity can be given to parents who choose Irish-medium education for their children.
“It’s become very clear from the patronage determination process that the Department intends to use the aonad model as a way of providing Irish-medium education on a phased basis” said ní Ghréacháin “but it’s not working.