Q&A: Changes to the rules will make it easier on parents' pockets
If a child has a learning difficulty, will these changes make it easier to gain an exemption in Irish?
It will certainly be easier on the pockets of parents who might otherwise have had to pay for a psychological assessment to support an application for an exemption for a child with learning difficulties. But strict criteria are being laid down and schools will be expected to adhere to them. There is a tidying up and, in some cases, tightening up of the rules. Time will tell on the impact of the reforms.
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When do these changes take effect?
They apply immediately when the schools reopen for the new academic year. The Department of Education is issuing revised circulars to schools in the coming weeks along with guidelines on the implementation of the changes.
What if a school refuses to grant an exemption and a parent doesn't agree with the decision?
An appeal mechanism is being built in and the Education Minister will establish a panel of people with expertise in children's learning from which an appeals board could be drawn.
Is it true that pupils in Irish-medium schools have actually been allowed exemptions from studying the subject? A small but significant number of psychologists reported to Department of Education inspectors that they were asked to recommend exemptions from the study of Irish for pupils in Gaelscoileanna so that they could avail of the exemptions at post-primary level.
Are these changes because of an ongoing hike in the number of exemptions being granted?
There was a big growth between 2000 and 2010, although it has levelled out at around 1pc at primary and 9pc at post-primary in recent years. Much of the motivation for the change came from a desire for the system to reflect the modern approach of supporting children with special educational needs in schools - without having to produce a psychological assessment. A recent example of a similar change relates to applications for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) scheme, which allows a waiver on points for third-level entry. The existing circulars on exemptions in Irish date back to the 1990s.
A lot has changed since then and principals were finding it increasingly difficult to apply the rules.