The Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme arises from the Department of Education’s Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022 (DES, 2016), which, in turn, draws on the Government’s 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 (Government of Ireland, 2010). The main objective of the Policy is to provide a high quality and relevant Irish-medium education for young people in Gaeltacht schools and, in this way, to support and encourage the use of Irish in Gaeltacht communities. Policy objectives include:
- Supporting and improving the quality of Irish-medium instruction in Gaeltacht schools and in early learning and care settings, so that Irish-medium instruction will be the first choice of parents in each of the Gaeltacht areas
- Supporting appropriate Irish-medium educational provision for children and young people who are being raised through Irish
- Fostering innovation and excellence in the delivery of Irish-medium education.
Under the Policy, schools located in Gaeltacht language-planning areas may express interest in participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme. In order to achieve recognition as a Gaeltacht school, schools are required to operate fully through the medium of Irish (with the exception of the English curriculum and other languages), as set out in the Policy’s language-based criteria. Schools are supported by the Gaeltacht Education Unit within the Department of Education in their efforts to achieve recognition. A particular feature of the Scheme is an early total immersion approach in the Infant classes in primary schools, where Irish is the sole medium of instruction.
A package of supports is being provided to schools participating in the Scheme, including a grant for the purchase of Irish-medium resources, additional Irish language support hours, additional continuing professional development delivered by An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) and guidelines on immersion education.
The Scheme is based on the ongoing development and improvement of immersion education in schools through the effective use of school self-evaluation, and on the fostering of purposeful linkages with the school community and local language-planning organisations to extend the use of Irish. A validation process for schools, to gain recognition as a Gaeltacht school, commenced in October 2022.
The Educational Research Centre is working with the Gealtacht Education Unit to implement a multi-year evaluation of the Scheme, which began in early 2018. The Scheme was originally intended to be completed by 2022. However, it was extended to 2024 because of disruptions caused by COVID-19. There are 103 primary schools and 29 post-primary schools in the Scheme. Advice on the work of the Unit, and hence, the ERC evaluation, is provided by the Advisory Committee for the Policy on Gaeltacht Education, chaired by the DE.
The study is longitudinal and uses mixed methods: survey questionnaires, assessment of achievement and case studies. Assessment involves the use of existing instruments (post-primary) and the development of new tests (primary), which include speaking and listening tests. Below is an outline of what is involved:
- 2019, 2020: Baseline survey data collection, baseline focus groups for teachers and parents in case study schools, test development
- 2021, 2022: Collection of achievement data (primary and post-primary levels)
- 2023, 2024: Longitudinal survey data collection (all schools) and follow-up focus groups for teachers and parents (case study schools)
At the outset of the Scheme, it had been planned to administer achievement tests at least twice. However, because of disruptions to schools caused by COVID-19, it was concluded that it would be difficult to interpret any changes in performance that might occur and it was decided to devise an alternative means of measuring the impact of the Scheme. Hence, the following tests were administered in schools in the Scheme on one occasion as part of the baseline data collection:
- Test of Early Literacy (Senior Infants, Primary Level)
- Listening Test (Sixth Class, Primary Level)
- Test of Oral Language (Sixth Class, Primary Level)
- Test of Oral Language (Third Year, Post-primary)
- Test of Irish Reading (Second Year, Post-primary)
Activities for 2023 and 2024
- Q1/2023 – Publication of interim report on views of schools, teachers, parents and students in the initial years of the Scheme.
- Q2/2023 – Publication of achievement report.
- Q2-3/2023 and Q1/2024: Implement follow-up interviews in case-study schools
- Q3/2023: Implement follow-up questionnaires in all primary and post-primary schools (principal teachers, class and support teachers, parents and pupils at primary level, and principal teachers, teachers of Irish, selected teachers of other subjects, parents and pupils at post-primary level).
- Q3/2023-Q1/2024: Analyse case study interviews and draft reports for primary and post-primary schools and prepare draft report for Q3/2024.
- Q2-3/2024: Analyse questionnaire data and prepare draft report for Q3/2024.
- Q4/2024: Implement revisions to draft report to create final report.
Joint Inspectorate/ERC Report:
Tuarascáil ar Scoileanna Cás-Staidéir rannpháirteach sa Scéim Aitheantais Scoileanna Gaeltachta (2021)