Inspired by the desire to enthuse primary-level children to find a love for second-language learning, a new accredited school scheme ‘Scoil Spreagtha’ has been launched this week (6.11.23) by Gael Linn, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin and Ulster University, funded by Foras na Gaeilge.
‘Scoil Spreagtha’ is an accredited scheme to recognise and celebrate efforts made by English-medium schools to encourage the use of Irish in the school environment. ‘Scoil Spreagtha’ in its design aims to inspire schools to showcase and expand their efforts to promote the use of Irish in the school setting. Participating schools have been furnished with a comprehensive suite of support resources to assist their efforts to receive accreditation as a ‘Scoil Spreagtha’.
Boasting 80 participating schools, ‘Scoil Spreagtha’ is the most substantial scheme for the promotion of languages in NI’s education system since the termination of the Primary Modern Languages Programme in 2015. Running from November 2023 to June 2024, the scheme will culminate in end-of-year celebration events where successful schools, who have fully met the scheme’s accreditation criteria, will receive their ‘Scoil Spreagtha’ status for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Speaking on the importance of the scheme, Séamas Mac Eochaidh, Educational Policy Officer with Irish language organisation Gael Linn, commented:
“The approach to languages in NI’s education system has been lacking coherency with a draft strategy for languages pending now for a decade. There is no statutory requirement in regard to the teaching of a second language as part of the primary curriculum here, running counter to widespread international best practices where bilingualism is championed. There is a systemic failure in regard to language provision in this jurisdiction which has one of the shortest periods of prescribed language learning in Europe. The absence of primary language provision, since the termination of the Primary Modern Languages Programme, has left language learning in NI in a precarious situation and ‘Scoil Spreagtha’ will be proactive in ensuring that our primary students do not miss out due to the ineffective educational policy of the Department of Education.
Gael Linn is delighted to work in collaboration with Ulster University and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin to provide schools with an incentive to engage with the promotion of Irish which we believe could help to give Irish a stronger profile again in schools and in the wider community.”
Highlighting the innovative ‘Léargas’ language programme, Carol Nic Conmara, Education Coordinator with Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, commented:
“We have been working hard over the past few years putting together a diverse and enjoyable teaching package to be used in schools as part of the Léargas scheme. Léargas is an innovative second language learning programme which uses fun games and activities to introduce children in English-medium primary schools to the Irish language and culture. We are delighted to be partnering with Gael Linn and we are looking forward to seeing this material being used and enjoyed by the schools participating in the Scoil Spreagtha scheme. We will be working with participating schools and providing new materials as necessary.”
Speaking on the benefits of the scheme, Dr Gearóid Ó Domagáin, a Lecturer in Irish at Ulster University, commented:
“The Irish team at Ulster University are delighted to be working in partnership with Gael Linn and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin on this important initiative that will give schools a chance to showcase and gain recognition for their efforts in promoting the language. Early engagement with a second language has been shown to have educational, psychological and employment advantages and this initiative seeks to fill a current gap in such provision in English-medium schools.”
Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Director of Regional Engagement with Ulster University, added:
“This collaboration embodies our commitment to People, Place and Partnership at Ulster University. We are excited by the potential of this scheme to impact positively on the learning experience of school pupils across the region, many of whom will play key roles in the multilingual future of our society in this part of the world and beyond.”
‘Scoil Spreagtha’ is no longer open for applications for the 2023-2024 academic year, however, if the scheme is something that your school would like to participate in for the 2024-2025 academic year, please contact Gael Linn at email@example.com to express an interest.
‘Scoil Spreagtha’ - Scoil = School Spreagtha = Inspired, Motivated, Encouraged
Scheme logo available here
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