Written answers

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Irish Sign Language

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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70. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she has considered introducing the teaching of Irish sign language into the curriculum of secondary schools given it is Ireland’s third official language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22501/21]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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74. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she plans to recognise Irish sign language as a curricular subject given its status as a native language of the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22557/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 74 together.

The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 provides inter alia that the Minister will establish a scheme for the provision of Irish Sign Language (ISL) classes for the family of deaf children and education and support for children whose primary language is ISL attending recognised schools; and training for teachers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Many pupils who are Deaf or hard of hearing are integrated into mainstream classes at primary and post-primary level, while other children may attend special schools or classes.

I wish to advise that, in line with the Act, my Department provides for an extensive range of supports to assist pupils and young persons with special educational needs, including children who are Deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure that children can have access to an education appropriate to their needs.

The NCSE’s Visiting Teacher Service for children who are Hearing Impaired, work in partnership with parents to advise and offer guidance in matters pertaining to the child’s education and overall development. The NCSE also provides funding for individual teachers and whole school staff in mainstream schools, special schools, and special classes to undertake courses in Irish Sign Language. The Department provides funding to schools for assistive technology, special transport arrangements and enhanced levels of capitation in special schools and in special classes. The Department also provides funding for a weekly home tuition service to provide training in ISL for deaf and hard of hearing children, their siblings and parents.

As regards the curriculum, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (the NCCA) is currently reviewing and redeveloping the Primary Curriculum Framework NCCA have had continued engagement with member’s of the deaf community in recent years and will continue this work in the context of the review and redevelopment of the Primary School Curriculum.’ Inclusive education and diversity is one of the eight principles of teaching and learning proposed. One of the competencies proposed is 'Communicating and using language' which means being able? to understand, interpret and use different forms of? communication including gesture, expression, spoken? language (English, Irish and other languages), printed? text, broadcast media, and digital media.Phase one of the consultation on the draft Primary Curriculum Framework is complete. Phase two will take place in Q4 2021 during which the NCCA will be working with children, teachers, school leaders and parents, so there will opportunity for the NCCA to have continued engagement with children and teachers who use ISL in schools and to learn from their experiences. It is expected that the finalised Framework will be published by end Q2 2022 and the specifications for individual curricula will be developed in the following years.

At post primary school level, The Post-Primary Languages Ireland (PPLI) has developed a specification for a short course in Irish Sign Language (ISL) which is available as part of the new Junior Cycle. The emphasis is on developing communication skills in ISL at level A1 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). This course develops students' ability to understand ISL in live, and in recorded situations, to produce the language and to interact with other signers in a simple way and on familiar topics. A link to the course is available at: .

Currently, there are four modules on Sign Language available as part of the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. This course introduces students to Irish Sign Language and aims to develop their expressive and receptive communication skills. The course also develops awareness and appreciation of the Irish deaf community and its culture. There are four modules in this course. Deaf students may take all four modules instead of the Gaeilge and Modern Language courses. The first two modules of this course may be taken as elective modules by all students.

There is also an opportunity for students to learn sign language in the course of Transition Year. Each school designs its own Transition Year programme, within set guidelines, to suit the needs and interests of its students. In establishing its own distinctive programme content, the school takes into account the possibilities offered by local community interests.


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