Policy on Gaeltacht Education – Information for Parents
The Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-22 (PGE) is being implemented in primary and post-primary Gaeltacht schools since 2017. It is a state policy designed to consolidate the identity of the schools as Gaeltacht schools. The Gaeltacht Schools Recognition Scheme is in operation in the schools that are taking part in the Policy.
Why was the PGE introduced?
As a result of changes to the Gaeltacht over many years, a mix of languages can now be heard in Gaeltacht communities and classrooms. There are big differences in children’s standards of Irish when they start school. Some are native speakers from families who speak Irish at home, others have little Irish, and some children speak no Irish at all. This mixture of language abilities was very challenging for teachers in Gaeltacht schools at primary and post-primary levels. It had a negative effect on Irish as the primary teaching and social language in Gaeltacht schools, and as a result, in the Gaeltacht as a whole.
How is the Gaeltacht Schools Recognition Scheme implemented?
Under the scheme, all primary and post-primary schools must fulfil certain criteria to achieve Gaeltacht status.
At primary level, every participating school must fulfil 13 criteria. The first relates to the implementation of a two-year early-immersion education programme in junior and senior infants to establish a strong foundation for students’ ability in Irish. It is proven internationally that early-immersion education is the most effective way to attend to differences in language ability in the classroom – in the Gaeltacht, early-immersion education develops fluency in children with little or no Irish and it reinforces the wealth of Irish of native speakers.
At post-primary level, 11 criteria must be fulfilled by schools, as part of which they must work towards teaching all subjects through Irish, aside from English and other languages.
Is support available to schools to implement the PGE?
A Gaeltacht Education Unit has been established by the Department of Education to administrate and monitor the Gaeltacht Schools Recognition Scheme. A range of additional supports are made available to the schools, including additional language support hours for Irish, continuing professional development from COGG, and additional visits from the Inspectorate.
All additional information about the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-22 is available here.
Note: As a result of the effect of Covid-19 on schools for the past two years, the Gaeltacht Schools Recognition Scheme has been extended by two years to 2024.