Tuesday 17 September 2019

Parents and pupils protest over fears school's all-Irish school education is being 'totally abandoned'

Pupils from Colaiste Lu protest at the LMETB about the removal of Irish language services at the Gaelscoil in Dundalk
Picture: Arthur Carron
Pupils from Colaiste Lu protest at the LMETB about the removal of Irish language services at the Gaelscoil in Dundalk Picture: Arthur Carron
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A row has broken out at an Irish-medium unit in a post-primary school where most subjects are now being taught through English.

Parents and pupils at Coláiste Lú, Dundalk, Co Louth protested today over fears that a policy of all-Irish education is being “totally abandoned” .

However, the school’s patron body, Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) blamed teacher shortages, particularly a lack of those qualified to teach through Irish.

A group of about 100 marched from the school to the offices of LMETB where they handed in a letter raising their concerns.

Coláiste Lú, which has about 60 pupils, is an Aonad, an Irish-medium unit within a mainstream English-medium school, Coláiste Chú Chulainn.

Unlike a Gaelcholáiste, a post-primary school which engages in full-immersion Irish-medium education, an Aonad is not a stand-alone school and its teachers are drawn from the allocation for main school. In some cases, depending on pupil numbers and staffing, an Aonad may not deliver all subjects through Irish.

The Coláiste Lú Parents Council said they were given a commitment in 2013 that it would run as full, deep-immersion Aonad within Coláiste Chú Chulainn.

According to parents, this September, most pupils are only being taught Irish through Irish and first-years are only being taught Irish and Geography through Irish. 

Parents’ council secretary Aidan Kinsella said they had a situation where students who have studied subjects up to now in Irish, and due to take Junior and Leaving Certificate exams are forced to study in English, with terminology that they did not understand.

According to the council, earlier this year, on foot of parental pressure, LMETB committed to policies that would maintain and encourage a deep immersion Irish medium education ethos.

In a statement, LMETB said that similar to schools nationally, it was experiencing difficulty in securing teachers in certain subjects including a shortage of suitably qualified teachers to teach through the medium of Irish.

“LMETB are not in a position to commit resources sanctioned for other students to meet certain expectations expressed by parents/guardians of students attending the Aonad,” it added.

The matter was raised with the Department of Education in the Spring and the Department responded that the principle issue of concern for parents was that they were seeking full immersion Irish-medium education and that they had been advised on enrolment that their children would be availing of that.

The Department said it wasn’t clear who had given such a commitment adding that its records did not show any evidence that a stand-alone Gaelcholáiste was ever intended, nor was it considered that that there was a case for one now.

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