Anger over plan to carry out Gaelscoil interviews in Irish
Proposals to have four-year-olds undergo a school interview to test their ability to speak Irish if they wish to attend Gaelscoileanna have been criticised by Fianna Fáil Gaeilgeoir Éamon Ó Cuív.
The Irish language promoter said he had serious concerns about the plans, which he feared would place undue pressure on schools and young children.
The proposed policy would see young children interviewed by the school in order to prioritise admission for children from Irish speaking families to Gaelscoileanna.
It follows changes proposed in the Schools Admissions Bill that would prohibit the current method of interviewing and testing parents as part of the admission policy.
While he insisted Irish speaking children should get priority at Gaelscoileanna, Mr Ó Cuív said the proposed policy to interview potential pupils was not fair to schools or children.
"I think it is putting pressure on the schools and could possibly put pressure on children where Irish is not the home language and the parents want to claim it is. Or the marginal cases and I don't want to put pressure on children," he said.
Mr Ó Cuív said he believed leaving the interview process up to the schools was "fraught with challenges" including teachers evaluating their own children or feeling under pressure from parents to pass children.
"I agree that families who rear their children through Irish, and I mean genuinely do so, should get priority access into Gaelscoileanna because outside the Gaeltacht it takes a fair bit of effort to rear your children through Irish.
"But I certainly don't think the school should do the interview," he said.
Instead he called for a planned Government scheme to support Irish speaking families to be rolled out.
Such a scheme was proposed under the 20-year strategy for the Irish Language in 2010, but Mr Ó Cuív said to date it had failed to materialise.
"If the systems that were promised had been put in place there would be no need for this. And certainly it would not be up to the schools where I think it would be very, very difficult for them to apply it because I believe there would be all sorts of arguments of bias and so on.
"Whereas if there were supports and this scheme was in place then it would be recognised which families had engaged consistently since the child was born with this service.
"I think using this scheme should be the criteria for priority access to Gaelscoileanna," he added.
Mr Ó Cuív said he had raised the matter with Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne and would continue to keep an eye on the proposals.
"We will be keeping an eye as the bill comes forward. I want to check what the latest version of bill says. I was averse to one-off examination in the school as I don't think it's a fair or good way to go about this for a number of reasons and I think it would be controversial," he said.