Do I need to speak Irish to register my child with a naíonra?

No. Children from all linguistic and cultural backgrounds are welcome in naíonraí. The teachers in the naíonra will speak in Irish to the children from the first day and will use body language, pictures and tone of voice to make sure that the children can understand their meaning. Children usually respond in their home language but quickly come to understand Irish and to use the language themselves. This is what’s known as immersion education and it’s a popular method of education, used all over the world. It has a lot of advantages in terms of children’s development.

Is full early-immersion education in a naíonra suitable for children with additional needs?

It is. Research has proven that immersion education is suitable for children with special educational needs and that it helps children to develop better cognitive and communication skills, as well as helping them to develop increased self-confidence and empathy.

Does a child’s first language suffer when they start to learn a second language?

No, it instead increases the child’s overall language skills. There is no risk to the child’s home language, the experience of naíonraí in Ireland and of early-immersion settings internationally is that children are not confused by the use of a second language and can easily tell the two languages apart.

How long will it take for my child to start speaking in Irish?

It takes time for a child to begin speaking a new language, and no two children learn at the same rate. Parents should not be disappointed if they don’t see or hear their child speaking Irish immediately. In the case of a child’s first language, it can take them two years to begin to speak, but that’s not to say that they’re not acquiring language during those two years. In the naíonra, the early-years teacher will only speak in Irish, organising and discussing activities with the children. The foundations of language are listening and understanding and the vocabulary used with children in the naíonra is built up over time. Children acquire the language in a natural manner through the activities provided (songs, rhymes, games, creative play, drama, art, etc.). Over time, children will acquire the ability to use the words and phrases themselves, in context.

A free booklet for parents about the naíonra is available by contacting us – eolas@gaeloideachas.ie.

How does immersion education benefit students who speak Irish at home?

Immersion education gives students who are native Irish speakers the opportunity to build on their fluency and enrich their language skills. Immersion in Irish both in the classroom setting and outside of it supports the family’s use of Irish at home.

How will learning everything through Irish affect my child’s development in English?

Irish-medium immersion education has a positive effect on students’ fluency in English, rather than a negative one. Students’ abilities in other languages (including English) is helped rather than hindered. Parents need not worry about the students’ ability should they choose to continue study at third level, as the skills the students develop at post-primary level are transferrable to their third-level education. Students do not have difficulty getting to grips with terminology in English as they have already developed an understanding of the concepts required to study the subject.

Is Irish-medium education suitable for students with special needs?

Naíonraí and Irish-medium schools routinely cater for children and students with diverse needs. Examples include children and students with sight and/or hearing difficulties, dyslexia, autistic children and students and those with other special educational needs (SEN). Many Irish-medium schools now have autism classes. The same supports are available to children and students with SEN in Irish-medium naíonraí and schools as they are in any other mainstream preschool or school.

Immersion education does no harm to students who have special educational needs and a report from the National Council for Special Education published in 2011 recognised that bilingual education contributes to students’ social, emotional and interpersonal growth.

Do I need to have Irish to send my child to an Irish-medium school?

No. You can do a lot to encourage your child to become fluent in Irish without being able to speak the language yourself. The majority of children in Irish-medium schools do not have Irish as one of their home languages. 

The best way to help your child in post-primary school is to show them that you are positive about them going to school and becoming fluent in Irish. Letting your child know that you are proud of them, that you’re interested in what they’re doing in school and that you’re excited to learn along with them will be a big help to them.

How will I help my child with homework?

Irish-medium schools recognise the importance of engaging parents in all aspects of their child’s learning, including homework. Teachers are aware that many parents may not speak Irish and homework is designed to reinforce what the student has already covered during school hours.

Your child will be able to explain the homework they’ve been given in the language you speak together at home. It will help your child a lot if you show them that you’re very interested in how they are becoming fluent in Irish, and in the progress they’re making at school.

Does my child need to have gone to an Irish-medium primary school to get a place in an Irish-medium post-primary school?

No, though some schools give preference to students coming from Irish-medium primary schools in their enrolment criteria. These criteria only apply if they are clearly stated in the school’s enrolment policy, and if the school does not have enough places for all applicants. We recommend that you contact any school you are interested in and request a copy of its enrolment policy, as well as information on the supports it offers to students coming into the school from English-medium primary schools.

Research into the progress made by students in Irish-medium post-primary schools who attended English-medium primary schools has shown that they attained equally high marks in both Irish and Maths at Junior Certificate level to those students who had been educated through Irish at primary level.

Will students have difficulty studying all subjects through Irish?

Immersion education helps students to become fluent through participation and total absorption; it’s not a sink-or-swim approach. Language is taught in the context of the subject and this integrated learning approach helps the student to make progress in both their fluency in Irish and their mastery of the subject.

Are their books and resources available in Irish for the students?

Yes. COGG, the statutory agency that provides for the educational needs of Irish-medium and Gaeltacht schools, provides teaching resources and support services for Irish-medium education and you’ll find a directory of available resources here: http://www.cogg.ie/en/resource-directory/.

Will students have the same opportunities outside of the classroom as they would attending an English-medium school?

Yes, and more! Irish-medium schools take part in all kinds of local and national events, and some, like the Young Scientists, have special awards for those who participate in Irish. There is also a wide range of events specifically for students in Irish-medium schools; sport, debating, drama, music and more.

Further questions?

Gaeloideachas’ staff are always available to talk to parents about their children’s education. Contact us on 01 8535195 or email eolas@gaeloideachas.ie.