Is the green carpet about to be pulled out from under the cosy feet of the Gaelscoil movement?
Its adherents loved telling us how popular the medium of Irish language education was, and how De Language was undergoing a "renaissance". Even, it seemed, among parents who did not speak any Gaeilge, but were happy to send their little Oisins and Roisins to a school that taught through a medium they themselves did not understand. Why?
Factors behind the alleged "surge" in popularity:
1) Misguided types who saw Gaeilge as the badge of authentic Irishness (rather than the badge of our corrupt State and ruling political class who jumped onto the Gaelic League cultural nationalist bandwagon of the late 19th century).
2) Those who saw the potential of bonus points for their progeny in Leaving Cert results (worth an extra 10% for answering "As Gaeilge" in some subjects).
3) Shinners (cultural nationalists, see "authentic Irishness" above).
4) Those who wanted to send their children to a school where they were less likely to share a classroom with "foreigners" (this cropped up a few years back in a Sunday Business Post article, but I have heard people express the same sentiments myself since).
5) The fact that it was very easy for a well-organised interest group to get a school set up..
To date, in order to establish a primary school all that was required was for 17 pupils to be "identified". That is, a well-organised lobby group such as the Gaelscoil movement only had to collect some signatures, preferably with a few fadas, in order to establish a case for a school in a given area.
Now it seems that the DoE - if it acts on a report submitted from the Commission of School Accommodation - will require greater numbers of potential pupils, along with three class streams for each year. In addition, before a new school is established in a given area, a thorough survey will be carried out in order to establish what type of school best reflects an area's needs.
Predictably, those in the Gaelscoil movement don't want this. To quote a report from the Indo last May (Katherine Donnolly, May 3rd):
"Letters of objection from Gaelscoileanna Teo and An Foras Patrunachta have been published as appendices to the report.
An Foras Patrunachta chief executive Caoimhin O hEaghra claims the report "places an obstacle to the provision of all-Irish education to the children of the country".
He said it was likely that those looking for an all-Irish education would be in a minority at first, so a parental survey would not meet their needs.
Gaelscoileanna Teo acting chief executive Nora Ni Loinsigh agreed it would be difficult to establish an all-Irish school on the basis of a survey of parents."
Which would support what many of us on Gombeen Nation have believed for years. Some of those in the Gaelscoil movement have been pushing to establish themselves in areas where there is no real demand for - and can be no benefit from - their brand of schooling. If not, what is the problem with an extensive area survey?
Let us hope the DoE belatedly sidelines this particular lobby group - in the best interests of education, social cohesion, and the future.
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