Sunday 20 October 2019

Pupils may be asked to audition by video to get Irish places

Education Minister Richard Bruton
Education Minister Richard Bruton
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Schools may invite parents to record videos of their children speaking Irish to show their proficiency in the language as part of new admissions legislation.

It is an option that will be open to over-subscribed Irish-medium schools, at either primary or post-primary level, to allow them to prioritise admission to students who have a "reasonable age appropriate level" of oral fluency in the language. All-Irish schools may also interview children.

However, neither is mandatory, and a school cannot insist on an interview or an assessment as part of the selection process.

On the other hand, it will be up to a parent, who is in a contest for a place for their child, to provide some form of evidence of oral fluency.

Education Minister Richard Bruton is addressing the issue of priority for Irish-speaking children in Irish-medium schools in one of three amendments to the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill.

The amendment provides that a parent must provide evidence to the schools that the child has a 'reasonable age appropriate level of oral fluency' and has a choice as to how they do that, such as a recording or interview.

Schools will have to take account of whether a child has a special educational need in determining what a reasonable age appropriate level of Irish for that child would be.

The Department of Education said the approach being taken recognises the difficulties that parents may have in accessing a small number of schools that provide an all-Irish education, particularly at second-level.

"It is not desirable in public policy terms to unintendedly limit the opportunities of students who have attained a level of proficiency in the Irish language from continuing their education through the medium of Irish," a spokesperson said.

The amendment seeks to ensure that such students can be given priority access where otherwise they would be a "risk of regression in their capacity to speak the Irish language".

Another amendment to the legalisation seeks to give the minister power to comply a school to open a special class, or classes, where the National Council for Special Education has identified such a need.

Mr Bruton said that, once the legislation was enacted, he wanted the power to open special classes to apply to children entering schools in September 2019. No timeline has been set in relation to the Irish language provision, although the minister said he wants it in place as quickly as possible.

Irish Independent

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