Written answers

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Education Policy

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

102. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a student who has medical confirmation of health issues including extreme anxiety and as a result of said health issues has missed a lot of school cannot apply for an exemption from Irish on health grounds (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23443/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

As the deputy is aware, the Irish language is accorded special status in Ireland and is protected by various pieces of Legislation and in particular Article 8 of our Constitution which states that “The Irish Language as the national language is the first official language”. The Education Act 1998 recognises the particular responsibility of the education system with regard to supporting the Irish language. The language has particular social, historical and educational importance and is part of the unique cultural heritage of the Irish people. It is an aim of Government to increase on an incremental basis the use and knowledge of Irish as a community language.

In recognising the linguistic, social and cultural importance of Irish and English in Ireland, both languages are included as core subjects in the national curricula for recognised primary and post-primary schools and centres for education in Ireland. This has been the case since the foundation of the State and the importance of the teaching of both languages in this way has been re-affirmed on a number of occasions by the State, including most recently in the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.

The only exceptional circumstances in which consideration may be given to granting an exemption from the study of Irish in the case of primary schools are set out in Section 2.2a, 2.2b, 2.2c and 2.2d of Circular 0052/2019 and in Section 2.2a, 2.2b and 2.2c of Circular 0053/2019 for post-primary schools. In line with the Department’s policy however, schools are expected and encouraged to provide all pupils (including those granted an exemption), to the greatest extent possible and in a meaningful way, with opportunities to participate in Irish language and cultural activities at a level appropriate to their learning needs. In keeping with the status and cultural importance of Irish an exemption from the study of Irish is not intended to prevent a pupil/student from learning Irish and therefore A pupil/student holding an exemption has the option not to exercise the exemption granted, without any loss of the right to exercise it at a future time. This provides for the department’s obligations to allow pupils/students with special needs equal access to the same curriculum as all pupils/students in keeping with The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act (2004)

In line with other department policies in the area of special educational needs, the circulars on the granting of exemptions from the study of Irish have moved away from a diagnostic categorical model to a needs-based model. Therefore a psychological report or medical professional’s report is no longer a requirement for granting an exemption from the study of Irish. When schools receive reports from a psychologist or other specialist recommending an exemption from the study of Irish the onus is on the school to consider it in the context of their own testing and record of the pupil’s performance in school. This is the evidence required by the circular.

An external report which recommends an exemption from a psychologists, speech and language therapist (SLT), Psychiatrist, GP or other practitioner, may be helpful to the school in considering how they are meeting an individual pupil/student’s needs BUT is not the deciding factor for the Principal to grant an exemption. The circular requires the school to demonstrate evidence of intervention and differentiated support for those children/students who struggle with literacy, as well as the current level of in-school testing on discrete tests of word reading, reading comprehension or spelling. This includes using evidence of needs over time. As part of this process the school will administer discrete tests to identify the needs of the student. It is these test results which inform intervention and need for any additional support.

For pupils with significant literacy needs, such as those where there are concerns that literacy attainments remain, despite intervention, at/below the 10thpercentile, the school will most likely be providing support through the SET Teacher. These teachers undertake assessment and identification of need as part of their problem solving approach and development of Student Support Plans. The granting of an Irish exemption emerges from this process. Therefore the school will have evidence on an individual’s Student Support file to support the application.

The circulars apply to recognised English-medium primary and post-primary schools only therefore the record of the pupil’s/student’s performance and any testing will be done in relation to English literacy skills, since English is the language of instruction of the pupil/student. Testing in Irish in this circumstance does not indicate the pupil’s/student’s ability to engage with learning across the whole curriculum and is not sufficient to meet the criteria outlined in the circulars. The exceptional criteria outlined in subsection 2.2.c of the circulars are for pupil’s/student’s with significant literacy needs which impact on their learning across the curriculum. An exemption from the study of Irish is not meant to address the needs of a student who is encountering difficulty with the study of Irish only.

In addition to a test score at/below the 10th percentile in one test (Word Reading, Reading Comprehension or Spelling), the pupil/student must have reached at least 2nd class and must also present with significant and persistent learning difficulties despite having had access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning over time. Documentary evidence to this effect is required including a Student Support Plan detailing:

- Regular reviews of learning needs as part of an ongoing cycle of assessment

- Target setting

- Evidence informed intervention and review, including test scores (word reading, reading comprehension, spelling, other scores of language/literacy) at key points of review.

At post-primary level an exemption from the study of Irish is an exemption from the requirements set out in Rule 21 of the Rules and Programmes for Schools, which states that the approved course for recognised senior pupils must include not less than five subjects, of which one shall be Irish.

There is no requirement to sit or pass an Irish examination in order to achieve a Junior or Leaving Certificate. The study of Irish is mandatory for all students except for those holding an exemption from the study of Irish. However, as with any subject in the state examinations, a candidate may decide not to sit the examination for Irish. The reasons for this will vary according to the candidate’s own particular circumstances. There are no plans to require students to pass Irish in order to achieve a Junior or Leaving Certificate.

Any decision not to present for examination in Irish should be made carefully and following detailed discussion between the candidate, their teachers and school principal. When making a decision it is important to remember that the study of Irish is a common entry requirement for many third level courses and parents/guardians and students are advised to contact their school’s guidance counsellor to seek advice on how best to proceed. Indeed, it is possible that a Reasonable Accommodation for State Examinations (RACE) might be a better route than an exemption from the study of Irish. Further information on RACE is provided by the State Examinations Commission on their website: .

Entry requirements for third level programmes are set down by individual higher education institutions and there are requirements to achieve a certain standard of Irish as an entry requirement for National University of Ireland matriculation and entry for certain courses of study such as primary teacher education. A language exemption at third level is a matter for the individual third level institution.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.