The Irish Language In Education In Northern Ireland 2nd .

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IrishThe Irish language in educationin Northern Ireland2nd edition

This document was published by Mercator-Education with financial support from theFryske Akademy and the European Commission (DG XXII: Education, Training andYouth)ISSN: 1570-1239 Mercator-Education, 2004The contents of this publication may be reproduced in print, except for commercialpurposes, provided that the extract is proceeded by a complete reference to MercatorEducation: European network for regional or minority languages and education.Mercator-EducationP.O. Box 548900 AB Ljouwert/LeeuwardenThe Netherlandstel. 31- 58-2131414fax: 31 - 58-2131409e-mail: n.orgThis regional dossier was originally compiled by Aodán Mac Póilin from UltachTrust/Iontaobhas Ultach and Mercator Education in 1997. It has been updated byRóise Ní Bhaoill from Ultach Trust/Iontaobhas Ultach in 2004. Very helpful commentshave been supplied by Dr. Lelia Murtagh, Department of Psycholinguistics, InstitúidTeangeolaíochta Éireann (ITE), Dublin. Unless stated otherwise the data reflect thesituation in 2003.Acknowledgment:Mo bhuíochas do mo chomhghleacaithe in Iontaobhas ULTACH, do Liz Curtis, agusdo Sheán Ó Coinn, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta as a dtacaíocht agus a gcuidiú agusmé i mbun na hoibre seo, agus don Roinn Oideachas agus an Roinn Fostaíochta agusFoghlama as an eolas a cuireadh ar fáil.Tsjerk Bottema has been responsible for the publication of the Mercator regional dossiersseries from January 2004 onwards.

ContentsForeword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22.Pre-school education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133.Primary education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164.Secondary education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195.Further education6.Higher education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247.Adult education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268.Educational research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299.Prospects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3010.Summ ary statistics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32Education system in Northern Ireland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36References and further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38Addresses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43Other web sites on minority lang uages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45What can Mercator-Education offer you? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

GlossaryCCEA :CCMS:DEL:DENI:DHSSPS:ELBs:GCE AS:GCE:GCE -A-leve l:GCSE:GNVQ:NICIE :PEEP:PGCE:The Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations andAssessmentCoun cil for Cath olic Main tained Sch oolsDepartment for Employment and LearningDepartment of Education for Northern IrelandDepartm ent of He alth, Social S ervices an d Public S afetyEducation and Library BoardsGeneral Certificate of Education Advanced Stand ardGeneral Certificate of EducationGeneral Certificate of Education at Advanced LevelGeneral Certificate of Secondary EducationGeneral National Vocational QualificationNorthern Ireland Council for Integrated EducationPre-school Education Expansion ProgrammePostgraduate Certificate in Education

Regional dossier Irish1ForewordbackgroundFor s eve ra l ye ars now , M ercato r-Education has madeefforts to achieve one of its principal goals: to gather, storeand distribute info rmation on min ority lang uage ed ucationin Europ ean regio ns. Regional or minority languages arelanguages which differ from the official language of thestate where they are spoken and which are traditionally usedwithin a given terr itory by n ationals of th at state forming agroup numerically smaller than the rest of the state’spopula tion.The success of this series of regional dossiers has shown aneed for documents stating briefly the most essentialfeatures of the educational system of regions with anautochthonous lesser used language. With the establishmentof regional dossiers we intend to meet this need.aimRegional dossiers aim at providing concise descriptive in formation and basic educational statistics about m inoritylanguage education in a specific region of the EuropeanUnion. This kind of inform ation, such as featu res of theeducational system, recent educational policies, division ofresponsibilities, main actors, legal arrangements, supportstructures, and also q uantitative in forma tion on the numberof schools, teachers, pupils and financial investments, canserve several purp groupPolicy maker s, researche rs, teachers, s tudents and journalists may use the information provided to assess developments in European minority language schooling. They canalso use a regional do ssier as a first orientation towardsfurther research or as a source of ideas for improvingeducational provision in their own with E U R Y D I C EIn order to link these regional desc riptions with those ofnational educatio nal systems, it was decided to follow theformat used by EU R Y D I C E, the European education inform-

Education and lesser used languages2ation networ k in the Eu ropean Union . E U R Y D I C E providesinformation on the administration and structure of educationin memb er states of the European Union. The informationprovided in the regional doss iers is focussed on languageuse at the various levels of education.contentsThe remainder of this dossier consists firstly of an introduction to the region under study, followed by six sectionseach dealing with a specific level of the educational system.These brief descriptions contain factual information presented in a readily accessible wa y. Sections eight to tencover research, prospects and summary statistics. For detailed information and political discussions about languageuse at the various levels of education, the reader is referredto other sources w ith a list of publications.1IntroductionlanguageIrish, or Gaeilge , is an autoch thonou s languag e spoke n inthe Republic of Ireland and in Northern Irelan d. It is aCeltic language closely related to Scottish G aelic and Manx,and more d istantly related to Wels h, Breton and Cornish.Speakers of Irish in N orthern Ir eland are predom inantlysecond language learners and most people learn thelanguage through the education system or at informallanguage classes held throughout Northern Ireland. Threemajor dialects of Irish are spoken in Ireland, Ulster,Connacht and Mu nster. The Ulst er dialect is spoken andtaught in Northern Ireland.populationIrish was used by a number of residual commun ities ofnative speakers in Northern Ireland when the state wasfounded in 1921. These c omm unities are n o longe r extant;the last native speaker of Tyrone Irish survived until 1970.At present the Irish-speaking community in Northern Ireland consists of those who have learned Irish as a secondlanguage at second ary scho ol, university, or at night classes;

Regional dossier Irish3children who have been b rought up w ith Irish as their firstlanguage (often by parents who themselves learned or arelearning it as a second language); and an increasing numberof children from English-speakin g home s who are beingeducated through the medium of Irish in Irish-mediumschools. While this c omm unity exte nds throughoutNorthern Ireland it is largely an urban phenomenon with thehighest concentration of speak ers in Belfast, particularly thewest, De rry, and in the New ry and M ourne d istricts.According to the 2001 Census, 167,490, or 10 .4%, of thetotal popula tion in Northern Ireland aged three and overreported some knowledge of Irish.1 The Census does notprovide inform ation on the fluency or ability of speakersbut it has been estimated by scholars that between 13-15000speakers are ‘fluent speakers’ and that a further 40-45000are ‘functional s peakers of Irish’ who claim better thanaverage ability to speak Irish.2 The follo wing tab leillustrates the results of the Irish language question in the2001 Ce nsus.Knowledge of Irish of all persons aged 3 years and overNorthern Ireland Census 2001All personsUnderstand s spoken Irish bu t cannot read, write or sp eak IrishSpeaks but d oes not read or w rite IrishSpeaks and reads but does n ot write IrishSpeaks , reads, write s and un derstand s IrishSpeaks , reads, write s and un derstand s IrishHas some knowled ge of IrishHas no kn owledge o f Irishlanguage 01,450,467Prior to the esta blishment of the Northe rn Ireland state in1921, Irish was recognised as a school subject and as“Celtic” in some third level institutions. This policy continued in spite of attem pts in the 19 30s to restrict it furtherin the curriculum. Between 192 1 and 1972, No rthernIreland had a measure of devolved government. During

Education and lesser used languages4those years one party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP),which was hostile to the Irish language, was in power in theNorthern Ireland Parliament. Northern Ireland was ruleddirectly from Westminster, London, from 1972 until 1998.During this period th e governm ent’s attitude to the Irishlanguage changed somewhat. The first Irish-mediumschools were funded in the early 1980s and later that decadea number of Irish language projects received funding fromthe public purse. However, significant change was to occuronly after the signing of the signing of the Good FridayAgreement in 1998.Irish is not recognised as an official language in NorthernIreland, but the British Governm ent has co mmitte d itself tovarious measures in support of the language, as specified inthe Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 19983 (also knownas the Belfast A greem ent). The Agreem ent states that: “A llparticipants recognise the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity,including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, UlsterScots and the languages of the various ethnic communities,all of which are part of th e cultural w ealth of th e island ofIreland.” Furthermore, the British Government committeditself to taking “resolute action” to promote th e Irish language and pro mised m easures to encour age its use in pu blicand private li fe, in the media and in education. It alsoprovided for the establishmen t of a North/South MinisterialCoun cil, whose duties include setting up six cross-borderimplementation bodies fu nded b y the two administrations.One of the bodies is the North/South Language Body whichcontains two associated agencies , Foras na Gaeilge4 (dealing with Irish) and Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch (dealing w ithUlster-Sco ts). Foras na Gaeilge has a role in advisingadministrations, north and south, as well as public bodiesand other grou ps in the priv ate and v oluntary sectors in allmatters rela ting to the Irish languag e.The British Government ratified the European Chart er forRegional or Minority Languages on 27 March 2001. Welsh,Scots-G aelic and Irish were given protection under Part 3 of

5Regional dossier Irishthe Charter, the highest level of protection, while Scots andUlster Scots were given more limited protection under Part2. The Government thus committed itself and the NorthernIreland Assembly (suspended at the time of writing) to awide range of measures to promote the Irish language inpublic life. Measures relating to education includefacilitating Irish-medium education or the opportunity tostudy Irish at all school levels where requested and wherenumbers are sufficient; facilitating Irish-medium educationor the teaching of th e langua ge at univ ersities and in adulteducation; ensuring the teaching of the history and cultureassociated with the lan guage ; and providing the necessaryteacher-training.The Northern Ireland Hum an Rights Commission, a bodycreated by the Good Friday Agreement, has drawn uppreliminary proposals for inclusion in a Northern IrelandBill of Rights. Its provisional view is “that rather than makeprovision for ‘official’ or ‘national’ languages and ‘s econd’or ‘other’ lan guages, it is b etter to gua rantee righ ts for alllanguage users and make th e extent o f those righ tsdependent on the extent to which each language is used andundersto od in the comm unity.” T he Com mission w ishes “toguarantee a measure of recognition and respect to the usersof all languages, dialects and other forms of communicationbecause they all contribute to the cultural wealth of thecommunity.” Irish and Ulster Scots already enjoy a measureof protection under th e Good Friday A greem ent but otherminority languages in Northern Ireland do not. Thecommission recom mends the inclusion of users of signlanguage, Travellers, and speakers of Chinese and Urdu aswell as speakers of Irish and Ulster Scots in the proposedBill of Rights. T he Com mission’ s propo sals guarantee theright to use any language or dialect fo r private an d publicpurposes, where n ecessary th rough an interpre ter. Theyendorse the commitments made under the Good FridayAgreement and the European Charter for Regional andMino rity Langu ages. Th ey call for leg islation to ensure that,where there is sufficient demand, members of a ll linguistic

Education and lesser used languages6comm unities should h ave certain rights in resp ect of theirlanguage or dialect, including “the right to learn in it and tobe educ ated in an d throug h it.”status of languageeducationThe Department of Education has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate Irish-medium education arising out ofthe Belfast Agre ement and the subsequent Education(Northern Ireland) O rder 199 8. In 200 0, the Departmentestablished two new v oluntary bod ies to deal with Irishmedium education . Comh airle na Gaelscolaíochtapromotes, facilitates and encourages the development ofIrish-medium education and schools. It has eleven full-timestaff and in 20 02/3 had a budg et of 32 6,000. Iontaobhasna Gaelsco laíochta is a trust fund for Irish-mediumeducation which received an initial payment of 1.25mfrom Government. This funding was later supplemented bya further grant of half a million pounds. It is administeredby a small voluntary board of Trustees appointed by theDepartment of Education and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta . Most of its funding is directed at non-fu nded sc hoolsand pre-scho systemThe ed ucation sy stem in Northern Ireland differs from thoseof England, Wales and Scotland in some respects, althoughit shares a few basic principles, including that ofcompulsory education for all children between the ages of 5(year 1) and 1 6 (year 1 2). In prin ciple, edu cational provision should be free, but some schools which do not fit theeducational or numerical criteria laid down by governmentare not funded. All state-funded schools in Northern Ireland, including Irish-m edium scho ols, are expected tofollow the statutory Northern Ireland Curriculum. It iscurrently under review and phased change is expected tostart in September 2004.5The 12 years of compulsory schoolin g are divid ed intoprimary level and secondary level. The curriculum isdefin ed in terms of four key stages, two at each level. Thekey stages are as follow s:

7Regional dossier IrishKey stage 1, covers school years 1–4 for pupils agedKey stage 2, covers school years 5–7 for pupils9–11;Key stage 3, covers school years 8–10 fo r pupil s12–14;Key stage 4, covers school years 11–12 for pupils15–16.4–8;agedagedagedPupils are assessed at the end of each key stage in core curriculum subjects, and also have to study a number of othercompulsory subjects. Six cross-curricular educationalthemes must be provided, two of which are Education forMutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage.The education system in Northern Ireland has in addition anumber of distinctive features. A lthough early attem ptswere made to create a non-denominational system ofeducation in Northern Ireland, it developed along denominational lines. In the 1 930s an agreem ent was re ached w iththe three main Protestant churches – the Church of Ireland,Presbyterian and Methodist Churches – under which theyeventua lly transferred their schools to the ownership of thestate and in return they received key roles in the management of the edu cation syste m; these sc hools are referred toas either “state” or “controlled” sch ools and educate m ainlyProtestant children. The Catholic Church retained own ership of their schools but, as a result of a series of negotiations over school management arrangements, Catholicschools now have both their f ull recurren t and cap ital costsmet from p ublic fund s in the same wa y as state schools.These schools are referred to as Catholic Maintainedschools and educate mainly Catholic children. VoluntaryGrammar schools have either Catholic or non-denominational management and educate either Catholic orProtestant children. T here are a lso Indep enden t schoolswhich are not in receipt of government funding and Integrated schools which essentially aim to e ducate C atholicand Protestant children together; the first integrated schoolwas established in 1981 . Secondary education in Northern

Education and lesser used languages8Ireland retains largely a selective system with pupils goingto gramm ar schoo ls or second ary scho ols accord ing toacadem ic ability. With the exception of grammar schools,half of which are single-sex , most oth er second ary scho olsin North ern Ireland are coed ucationa l.The Irish-medium education sector also includes a numberof different types of school. The term ‘free-standing’ refersto an Ir is h -m edium p rimary o r second ary scho ol which isnot attached to, or part of, an English-medium school. AnIrish-medium ‘unit’ operates as a self-contained provisionunder the management of a host English-medium school.Independent Irish-medium schools are schools which arenot funded by the state: they normally develop into freestanding schools on receipt of funding. Both Irish-mediumschools and un its adopt a tota l immersion approach whereby all teaching is delivered through the medium of Irish.Irish-medium schools are managed by boards of gov ernorswhich are appo inted ma inly by th e parent b odies, withEducational Library Board (ELB) representation. Irishmedium units are under the management o f the hostEngli sh-medium school. A t present, all Irish -mediu m unitsare in Catholic schools under the management of CCMS.In the following sections the use and position of Irish in theeducational system o f Northe rn Ireland are discusse d inmore d etail.private an d publicThe vast majority of schools are state-funded, and managedby Boards of Governors, all of which have teacher andparent represen tatives. The se schoo ls, which re flect thehistory of denominational education in Northern Ireland,fall into a wide range of sub -sections, d epend ing on th eirbackground, management structure and funding mechanism. Independent, or private, schools receive no direct aidfrom p ublic fun ds.administrationOverall responsibility for all aspects of state-funded (also

9Regional dossier Irishcalled grant-aid ed) educ ation in N orthern Ir eland lies w iththe Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DE NI).Since the Northern Ireland Assem bly was s uspend ed in2002, DENI is the responsibility of a M inister of State inthe Northern Ireland Office who is directly appointed by theUK government in London. DENI formulates educationalpolicy in Northern Ireland, and all major funding decisionslie with the Department. At local level, educationalprovision, involving both cap ital and run ning co sts, isadministered by five Education and L ibrary Boards (ELBs),which are funded by DENI. ELBs m anage som e schools,and are th e channel for the fu nding of othe rs. They alsoprovide a curriculu m adv isory and suppo rt service toschools under th eir mana geme nt, and advise governmentdepartm ents (and other agencies) both on the needs of theirown areas and on the formulation of policy. The languageof administration is English.inspectionWithin DEN I, the Education and Tra ining Insp ectorate isrespons ible for monitoring, inspecting and reporting on thestandard of education and training provided by schools. Itadministers a programme of inspections whic h result inreports for pub lication. I t provides relevant advice to theDepartment of Educ ation, the Departme nt of Cultu re, Artsand Leisure, and the Department for Employment andLearnin structureThe Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) isrespons ible for all resource issues relating to schools andthe Youth Service; the latter advises DENI and the ELBs onthe personal and social development of children, youngpeople and young adults. DEN I funds the expenditureincurred by the five Education and Library Boards, whichhave statutory responsibility for the p rovision of services.All grant-aided sch ools hav e their recu rrent costs fu llyfunded by DENI, either directly or through the ELBs. DENIalso provides 100% grant-aid for capital costs for m ostschools, although a small number of maintained schools and

Education and lesser used languages10voluntary grammar schools receive up to 85%. Capitalfunding is paid directly by DENI to all categories of schoolexcept controlled or “state” schools. The Departm ent alsoprovides specific gra nts to ma ny scho ols, in particular,under the School Improvement Programme, to meetgovernment priorities. These grants are either paid directly,or, for some categories of school, through the Educationand Library Boards. 6In addition to the Department of Education, several otherorganisations operate w ithin the secto r. The Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA ), established in 1994 , provide s advice tothe Minister of Education on curriculum, assessment andexamination matters, conduc ts key stage assessme nts,GCSE and GCE examinations, and administers the TransferProcedure Tests (commonly called “11 p lus”). It has aregulatory role in relation to standards in GCSE, GCE andGeneral National V ocationa l Qualif ication (GNVQ)examinations offered in Northern Ireland, and providesinformation and produces teaching materials relating to theimplementation of curriculum requirements and assessmentarrangem ents in schools.As has been stated, the Co uncil for Catholic MaintainedSchoo ls (CCMS) is the advocate for the Catholic Maintained schools se ctor in No rthern Ireland. C CMS represen tstrustees, schools and governors on issues such as raisingand maintaining standards, the school estate and te acheremplo ymen t. It also supp orts truste es in the provision ofschool building s, and gov ernors an d princip als in theeffective management and control of schoo ls.7 All the Irishm edium units in Northern Ireland are within the Catholicmaintained schools sector.The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education(NICIE) co-ordinate s efforts to develop IntegratedEducation and to assist parent groups in opening new integrate d schools. These schools provide for religiousbalance (Catholic and Protestant) in pupil enrolm ents,teaching staff and governors. New scho ols agree to these

11Regional dossier Irishprinciples as a pre-requ isite of NIC IE supp ort and as sistance. Irish-as-a-subject is an option for some children atsecond ary level in th e integrated sector.There are also a number of suppo rt organisations, which arespecific to the Irish-m edium sector. Comh airle naGaelsco laíochta (The Council for Irish-medium education)was established by the D epartm ent of Ed ucation in 2000 toprom ote Irish-medium education. It plans for new sch ools,promotes good practice; represents the sector; and providesadvice, and assista nce and information to groups setting upschools and units. It does not have a funding role.Iontaobhas na Ga elscolaíoc hta (the Trust Fund fo r Irishmedium education) was established in 2001 with an initialfund of 1.75m from the government. The trust providesfinancial support to schools at prim ary and second ary level,which are not ye t in receipt of g overnm ent fund ing, and tothose setting up and de veloping ne w pre-sc hool, primary orsecondary provision. It also provides loans and grants forthe develop ment a nd enhancement of existing educationalprovision.Until Comh airle na G aelscolaío chta and Iontaobhas naGaelsco laíochta were established, Gaeloiliúint, hadrespons ibility for the establishment and development of newIrish-medium primary schools. However, it is now focusingon the development of Irish-medium education at tertiarylevel.Altram is a regional training and advisory organisation forthe Irish-medium early years sector. Founded in 19 96, thisvoluntary organisation supports and advises staff , comm ittees and par ents, and d evelops guideline s, curriculumresources and teaching aid s for the sector. It is the onlyIrish-medium centre in Northern Ireland providing trainingfor the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). It provides training courses on a regional and o utreach basis.NVQ qualifications are a requirement at pre-school level: atleast one member of staff should have NVQ Lev el 3 orequiv alent; all other qualified staff should have NVQ Level2 or equivalent; and 50% of the staff group should be

Education and lesser used languages12qualified. Institutions o f Furth er and Higher Educationprovide qualifying training for the English-mediumpre-school sector. A range of v oluntary prov iders,educational institutions, and health trusts and boardsprovide in-service tra ining. Stran millis Univ ersity Collegeoffers a BA Honours degree in Early Childhood Studies anda Post-grad uate Certif icate in Educ ation (PG CE) Ea rlyYears.The cross-border Irish langu age age ncy, Foras na Gaeilge,was established in 1999 . It is charged with promotion ofIrish on an all-island basis. One of its functions is to supportIrish-medium education and the teaching of Irish. It hasoffices in D ublin and Belfast.An tÁisaonad Lán-Ghaeilge (the Irish-medium resourcecentre) has responsibility for the provision of teachingmaterials for the Irish-medium sector. The resource is basedin St. Mary’s University College, Belfast 8 and is funded byForas na Ga eilge. It has a small team of editors andtranslators, who create, adapt and translate texts for u se inIrish-medium primary and seco ndary se ctors. At pr esent,due to lack of resources and staff, it is unable to meet thedemands of the sector; so many teachers enhance currentprovision with in-house adaptations of suitable Englishmedium texts, or with texts which have been produced forthe Irish-medium sector in the Republic of Ireland.However, because the curriculu m in the Republic of Irelandis different fro m that in N orthern Ir eland, te xts cannotreadily be used o r adapted for use in n orthern sc hools: bo thjurisdictions have their own separate educationalcurriculum. There are plans to create a central bank of inhouse resources produced by teachers in Northern Ireland.2Pre-school educationtarget groupPre-scho ol educa tion is provided for a child after he/she hasattained the age of 2 years and before he/she has attainedcompulsory school age which is 5 years old. Irish-medium

13Regional dossier Irishpre-school education is in the main directed at childrenfrom English-speaking homes, wh ose parents are considering primary education through the med ium of I rish for theirchildren. Children as young as two years may en rol instatutory nursery schools, or units, but a starting age ofthree is prefe rred for Irish -mediu m pre-s chools.structureThere are five types of pre-scho ol provisio n in NorthernIreland:P voluntary pre-school playgroups, which are outside thestate system and not directly funded by the state;P grant-aided, free-standing, statutory nu rsery schools,which are independent n urseries in receipt of state funding;P grant- aided, statutory nursery units, which are part of anexisting primary school, and are funded by the state;P private day nu rseries, whic h are no t in receipt of statefunding but are paid for primarily by parents, andP reception classes and groups in primary schools which arepart of the statutory primary education provided by anumber of schools (currently being phased out byGovernme nt).Pre-school playgroups, which include the majority of Irishmedium pre-school provision, are entirely voluntar y and fa lloutside mainstream educational provision. They are fundedby the Department of Education through the Pre- schoolEducation Expansion Programme (PEEP). Playgroups maysupplement this funding through fees, fundraising and theDepartm ent of Health , Social Serv ices and P ublic Safe ty(DHSPPS) grants. Voluntary pre-school playgroups do notreceive capital funding.State-funded nursery schools and nursery classes in primaryschools are financed on a not strictly regulated basis byDENI. They are staffed by qualified teachers who have theongoin g support of the local ELBs and may use their inservice facilities. The Irish language community has argued

Education and lesser used languages14for state-funded nursery provision in the Irish-mediumsector on the basis that it would enable children fromEnglish-speaking homes to deal with the statutorycurriculum needs of Irish-medium primary schools. However, no specific provision has yet been made for Irishmediu m nur sery edu cation.legislationThere is no statutory right to pre-school education. However, under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 19989,the Government seeks to provid

average ability to speak Irish.2 The following table illustrates the results of the Irish language question in the 2001 Census. Knowledge of Irish of all persons aged 3 years and over Northern Ireland Census 2001 All persons 1,617,957 Understands spoken Irish bu t cannot read, write or sp eak Irish 36,479 Speaks but does not read or w rite .

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