Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Out of Character for Mary Hanafin

Children from Gaelscoileanna began a campaign at Dáil Éireann today opposing Minister for Education Mary Hanafin's decision to end early total immersion in Irish-language schools.

According to a circular issued by Ms Hanafin last July, students at Gaelscoileanna will be required to take classes in English for 30 minutes each day starting from the second term of junior infants.

[Ms Hanafin's decision] flies in the face of international research and best practice
Mícheál Ó Broin, president of Gaelscoileanna Teoranta

Supporters of early total immersion say it is an effective system that results in a high level of competence in both English and Irish for pupils in Irish-medium schools.

Gaelscoileanna Teoranta began a campaign fighting for the right to maintain early immersion. It is being supported by Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lánghaeilge; Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta; Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and Conradh na Gaeilge.

Speaking at the start of the campaign in Dublin this morning, Mícheál Ó Broin, president of Gaelscoileanna Teoranta, said Ms Hanafin's decision "flies in the face of international research and best practice".

He said the decision is based "on the questionable findings of the inspectorate in one school.

"The result of this is the proposed ending of early immersion education and a devastating blow to the Gaelscoil movement, to the Irish language and to freedom of a parent's right to choose within the education system," he said.

The Department of Education move is the subject of legal action, with the High Court yesterday granting a temporary injunction restraining Ms Hanafin from implementing the policy change.

There are 168 Gaelscoileanna in Ireland, with another 30 likely to come on stream over the next three years.

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