Injustice created by Department of Education’s new model of provision of support hours for English and Irish in Irish-medium and Gaeltacht schools

Feb 14, 2024

With the publication of Circular 002/2024, relating to the allocation of Special Education Teachers (SET) for students with special educational needs, Gaeloideachas – the national organisation supporting the development of Irish-medium and Gaeltacht education – has expressed deep dissatisfaction with some of the new changes, particularly as they relate to the system of allocation of support hours for Irish and English alike in Irish-medium and Gaeltacht schools. 

The removal of the category relating to complex needs is a significant cause for concern for all primary schools in the country. In the new model, the complex needs of individual students are ignored and the average figure for the school is used in its place – a decision which will have a direct effect on the most vulnerable students with varied needs who badly need to be able to access the right supports.  

Gaeloideachas is of the view that the emphasis has now been placed on literacy and numeracy profiles of schools, a system which is far too narrow for fair allocation of SET and which will have severe implications in the Irish-medium and Gaeltacht education sector. 68.5% of the total SET hours that are available throughout the education system are allocated on the primary measures associated with 1) Literacy and 2) Numeracy. In the case of Irish-medium schools, the average results of standardised testing in English and Irish are used to assess the SET literacy allowance. Therefore, instead of fairly providing for the needs of the child in both languages, the support needs are being estimated based on the average between the two languages. Practically, this means that schools could lose teaching hours, and for the child, the result is that they could be blocked from accessing essential supports. Gaeloideachas sees significant implications for the support of the child in either or both languages to ensure inclusivity. 

Gaeloideachas is seeking clarification from the Department of Education and the NCSE on the reasoning around this calculation, as well as the scientific basis behind the model. The sector is extremely disappointed that the Department and NCSE did not adequately consult with stakeholders from the sector regarding the approach for Irish-medium and Gaeltacht schools in advance of the circular being released. Children in the Irish-medium system are being excluded if their language needs in both languages are not addressed to allow them to have full, equal access to the curriculum. In English-medium schools, there is no requirement to report the results of standardised assessments in Irish to the Department, or even to undertake these assessments. There is no equality around this question, with additional responsibilities being placed on Irish-medium schools, in addition to the lack of language support hours.  

The implications of the implementation of this circular will be immediately clear to some schools, who will lose hours, but the practical results will be clearer still for other schools in time. 

Ends 

Contact 

Clodagh Ní Mhaoilchiaráin, Vice-President | 087-6232191 

Micheál S. Mac Donnacha, President | uachtaran@gaeloideachas.ie | 087-2891544   

Notes for the Editor 

Gaeloideachas   
Gaeloideachas is a national lead organisation supporting the development of Irish-medium and Gaeltacht education at primary and second-level.  

Gaeloideachas provides advice, help, and support to parents who want to give the opportunity of Irish-medium education to their children, as well as support services and advocacy on behalf of schools within and outside of Gaeltacht areas, together with naíonraí outside of the Gaeltacht.