Irish-medium educators are concerned that on reopening they will face additional challenges, especially in finding additional teachers of Irish.
The Department of Education has no specific plan to ensure that teachers fluent in Irish will be made available to Gaeltacht and all-Irish schools as part of the plan for the reopening of schools.
The Department of Education confirmed this to Tuairisc.ie at a time when Irish – medium education has expressed concern and disappointment about part of the Government ‘s plan to reopen schools next month.
As part of the € 375 million plan announced by the Government this week, more than a thousand extra teachers will be made available to schools, but a spokesman for the Department of Education has told Tuairisc.ie it will be up to the schools themselves to ensure that the additional teachers are suitable for them.
At post-primary level, schools will be given additional funding to recruit additional teachers and it will then be up to the schools to ensure that the teacher is suitable for their “sector” and their vacancy.
For Gaeltacht primary schools and Gaelscoileanna, they will be drawing on the same panels of teachers that all other schools will rely on for additional teachers.
With a shortage of teachers with fluent Irish already, organizations such as Irish-medium education are concerned that all-Irish schools will face more challenges than other schools.
Bláthnaid Ní Ghreacháin, Chief Executive of Gaeloideachas, said that it was clear that the safety and health of the pupils and staff of the schools was the most important thing but that the case of the Irish language must be included in the reopening plan published on Monday.
“We need to ensure that there are no major implications for Irish as the language of teaching, learning and communication and that Irish is central to planning at Departmental and Departmental level,” said Bláthnaid Ní Ghreacháin.
There was also a question, she said, about the need to ensure that any special needs assistant, administrative staff member, supervisor, guidance counsellor or psychologist provided to all-Irish and Gaeltacht schools under the plan is fluent in Irish.
The President of Gaeloideachas, Seán Ó hArgáin, said that schools had already expressed “dissatisfaction” with the lack of resources and communication in Irish from the Department of Education during the pandemic.
Séan Ó hArgáin said that Gaeloideachas was “satisfied” that an Irish language version of the roadmap for school reopening had been issued but that it was “disappointing” that the supporting documents for primary and post-primary schools, including the Response Plan for schools.
“With such a limited timeframe for the reopening of schools, the pressure on Irish-medium schools is increasing significantly.
“We will expect these basic supports to be provided through Irish as well as the other supports mentioned, including online training for school staff plus the helpline available as an option through Irish,” said Cathaoirleach Gaeloideachas, Seán Argan.
Dónal Ó hAiniféin, Chair of COGG, An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta Agus Gaelscolaíochta, said that another opportunity had been missed to develop the Policy for Gaeltacht Education.
He said it was significant that none of the 58 forthcoming procurement panels was located in the Gaeltacht.
“We are disappointed that none of the panels is located in a Gaeltacht geographical area to support the Policy for Gaeltacht Education,” said Ó hAiniféin.
“It is not clear to us at the moment whether the shortest panels for the Gaeltacht will be located in, or attached to, Gaelscoileanna, to ensure that the teachers have a high level of proficiency in Irish.”
“If a panel were attached to a Gaelscoil, it would be up to the school management to conduct the interview system for that panel and it could be emphasized that the candidates’ understanding of Irish-medium education and their ability in Irish was emphasized.”