While there are three Irish language primary schools in the region, Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré in Sligo, Gaelscoil Chluainín in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim and Gaelscoil Eirne in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, to date there is no second-level Irish medium school.
Now there is a proposal for a secondary school in Sligo.
Carol Ní Chormaic, Chairperson of the Gaelcholáiste 2015 Committee, told us: “Immersion education is regarded by many as the best way to learn Irish and most immersion students can be expected to reach a greater level of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programmes.
“The new Irish language secondary school, Gaelcholáiste, which we hope will commence in September 2015, will not only serve the pupils of the existing Irish-medium primary schools but will also be open to pupils who attend English-medium schools in the region.
“Indeed pupils from all lingustic and cultural backgrounds will be most welcome in the school.”
Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré were recently sanctioned an additional Junior Infant class to cater for increased demand for Irish medium education in the primary sector.
According to principal Mícheál Ó Broin, the importance of continuity in the all-Irish education sector, with children progressing from Naíonra to Gaelscoil to Gaelcholáiste, cannot be overstated.
“The decision of the Department of Education and Skills to sanction an extra class in our school satisfies increasing demand in the region and contributes to the viability of an all-Irish second-level facility,” he said.
The benefits of immersion education, and in this case education in an all-Irish school where all subjects except English are taught through Irish, has been well documented globally over the past three decades.
A recent study shows that pupils of Irish-medium schools achieved greater than the national average levels in reading and writing in both English and Irish. Further studies also indicate that immersion students perform as well as, or better than, non-immersion peers in mathematics. Furthermore, research by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland shows that pupils of Irish-medium schools attained a higher academic standard than other pupils in the same age group.
There is also evidence to suggest that an all-Irish education actually enhances English language development and that students who obtain an all-Irish education learn further languages with greater ease.
Data from European countries suggests that bi-lingual children often find it easier to acquire other languages and a study in the Basque Country found that bi-lingual students show a greater ability in learing a third language. Research also shows that students from all-Irish schools have a greater tolerance of other cultures and are more open to cultural diversity due to the cultural enrichment they experience.
Members of the Gaelcholáiste 2015 committee will contact primary schools in the region in the coming weeks to arrange the circulation of questionnaires to parents with view to assessing demand for an Irish-medium secondary school. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anna Ní Bhroin,
Gaelcholáiste 2015 Committee