ESRI warns schools over ghetto risk to immigrants
Published 07/09/2010 | 05:00
A leading think-tank has warned of the dangers of increasing ghettoisation of schools in Ireland.
The ESRI says half of immigrant primary pupils are in schools with large numbers of children from overseas -- where they make up more than 20pc of the student population.
In comparison, 40pc of the country's 3,300 primary schools have no immigrants at all.
Immigrants are more likely to attend designated disadvantaged schools. The differences between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged schools can be quite stark -- they imply an increasing ghettoisation of those schools designated as disadvantaged.
Immigrants are under-represented in Gaelscoileanna, mainly because of the reluctance of non-English speaking families to learn an additional new language. Higher proportions are found in urban and larger schools and in designated disadvantaged schools.
The study, entitled 'Immigration and School Composition in Ireland' was written by ESRI researchers Delma Byrne, Frances McGinnity, Emer Smyth and Merike Darmody and published in 'Irish Educational Studies'.
They carried out a survey of 735 primary and 448 second-level schools. The study shows there is greater diversity of nationalities in schools here than in other European countries. Around 10pc of primary pupils -- 45,700 -- are immigrant, while there are 18,000 in post-primary, or 6pc. About 70pc of immigrant students are non-English speaking.
Nine out of 10 second-level schools have immigrant pupils, but many have small percentages of between 2pc and 9pc.
The ESRI says that enrolment criteria in Irish schools tend to favour settled communities, particularly where parents are required to sign up well in advance and preference is given to the siblings of those already in the school.
Much migration is relatively recent and many immigrants are very mobile. As a result, children will end up in schools that are under-subscribed. Irish parents with 'insider' knowledge of the educational system are more likely to successfully negotiate access to their preferred school. In contrast, immigrant parents can be 'outsiders' in terms of knowing how the system operates.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said that immigrant children were losing vital teaching support because of cuts in the number of English language teachers.
The union said that last year the Government cut nearly 500 of these teaching jobs in primary schools and predicted that a similar number could be cut this year. It said this was because of a hardline approach by the Department of Education and Skills, which had limited English language teaching to two years.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said: "Two years is only enough for children to develop surface understanding of a language.
"To get to a standard where newcomer children can learn subjects like science and geography through English takes a further five to seven years."