Donegal deputy states that the Irish language can reap benefits for students

New system for granting exemptions from studying Irish

Donegal deputy states that the Irish language can reap  benefits for students

A new criteria for schools to grant students an exemption from studying Irish, the Department of Education has announced. 

The new criteria will only apply in English-speaking schools and are applicable from the start of the school year in September.

Students in special schools will no longer have to apply for an exemption.

Psychological assessment will no longer be necessary to process an application. 

The school principal will continue to make the final decision.

The Minister for Education Joe McHugh said he believed the new system would be fair and balanced: “An overhaul of the system for granting exemptions from the study of Irish is long overdue. By making key changes the system will be fairer and more supportive of students while at the same time ensuring that all children have equal access to study the Irish language.”

He added that the decision to grant an exemption from the study of Irish should not be taken lightly: “The benefits of bilingualism and studying a language from a young age are becoming better understood with studies showing it helps mental agility, makes it easier to learn a third or more languages and that it can help support a child's academic achievement in other subjects like mathematics."

It follows a consultation period on the current exemption rules, some of which date back to the 1990s.

Conradh na Gaeilge has criticised the changes and said that the method of teaching Irish needs a completely fresh approach.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, General Secretary Julian de Spáinn said he agrees with the minister in the context that bilingualism is an advantage.

However, he said he is disappointed that the consultation process, specifically the survey used, seemed predetermined.

Mr de Spáinn said there needs to be more "joined up thinking" in the approach to facilitating students, which he believes could be achieved if there was more flexibility in the overall educational and Leaving Cert system.

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