Ireland: U-turn over the teaching of English in Irish-medium schools.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Oct 6 14:25:16 UTC 2007 <> Oops! Minister's policy U-turn
published on web by mistake

The changes seem to show that the Minister Mary Hanafin did a U-turn over
the teaching of English in Irish-medium schools. But this has been denied by
a spokesperson, who said the version that had inadvertently appeared on the
website for a number of days was not the final one. It has since been
replaced. The minister has infuriated Irish-language groups by deciding that
the provision of a minimum of 2.5 hours per week of English could not be
delayed beyond the start of the second term for junior infants. Many
Gaelscoileanna support full immersion in the Irish language for all junior
infants and some even for senior infants before they are taught English.
They strongly oppose the Minister's decision.

But important deletions and changes have been revealed on the Department of
Education and Science website. The key one relates to advice from the
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) which had recommended
further research before a decision was taken. The crucial passage -- which
was deleted on May 18 by a named individual -- states: "The minister has
accepted the advice of the NCCA that there is a need for comprehensive
research in an Irish context in order to generate evidence that would
support policy development. Accordingly the NCCA is being requested to carry
out a research project that will draw on the experience over time of schools
operating on the basis set out above."

It said the council had considered the issue of language and literacy in
Irish-medium schools with particular reference to infant classes. The
outcome of the work of the NCCA, which included reporting on consultation
and the findings from international research, was provided to the department
in February 2007. The draft circular shows that on the same day this
reference to the NCCA was deleted, an instruction was inserted for
Irish-medium schools to provide for at least 2.5 hours per week for English
at least by the start of the second term in junior infant classes.

Initially the intention was that the new arrangements would be put into
effect from this September, but this reference was deleted and replace by an
instruction to put them into effect no later than the beginning of January
2008. The minister's spokesperson said the existing situation needed to be
clarified as different schools were operating in different ways. She added
that it could take eight years to carry out research along the lines
suggested. Meanwhile, the minister and her Northern counterpart Caitriona
Ruane yesterday jointly launched Foras na Gaeilge's scheme, 'GLEO' at St
Patrick's College, Drumcondra. The primary aim of the scheme is to recognise
best practice in the promotion of oral Irish in creative and innovative ways
in English-medium primary and post-primary schools on the island of Ireland.

The scheme, which was first piloted by Foras na Gaeilge last year, aims to
acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of English-medium schools to promote
spoken Irish. The scheme, which was developed by Foras na Gaeilge,
recognises the unique environment offered by schools for the promotion of
usage of oral Irish from a young age. GLEO rewards schools on the island of
Ireland that are dedicated to the promotion of oral Irish, both inside and
outside the classroom. Nominations are assessed by an expert panel of judges
and shortlisted schools will then be visited. The entry deadline for
applications from schools is Friday, November 9.


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