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Minister must engage positively and genuinely on primary curriculum - Doherty

16 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has written to the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin seeking clarification after a letter was sent to schools, parents organisations and teachers unions seeking consultation and proposals, to be submitted by the 30th April, to put the primary school curriculum on a statutory basis only to be told that regulations will come into operation on the 1st of May.

Senator Doherty said if this is the case the Minister could only be paying lip service to consultation as there would not be enough time to take into account submissions made in late April.

Speaking today the Donegal Senator said, "It has come to my attention that the Minister has sent out letters seeking consultation and proposals from teachers, parents and teachers unions around putting the primary school curriculum on a statutory footing. Submissions need returned to the Department no later than 30th April 2008. However, the heads of the Education (Primary Curriculum) Regulations Regulations 2008 state that the regulations will come into operation on the following day 1st of May. This absolutely does not leave enough time to actually study submissions and take them into account.

"I have written to the Minister and asked for her clarification on this matter. If this actually is the way she intends to proceed then it is clear that she is merely paying lip service to the idea of consultation and is determined to push ahead in the manner in which she alone deems appropriate. This shows a high level of disrespect and ignorance.

"The Minister is determined to push ahead with her plans to end the practice of Irish Language immersion in Irish Language schools and she intends to put this, along with the rest of the curriculum, on a statutory footing making it illegal for Gaelscoileanna not to comply.

"This is unacceptable as there is no evidence that Irish Language immersion at an early age adversely affects the development or learning ability of children. In fact quite the opposite is true. Children who learn through the medium of Irish at an early age have shown that they can go on and achieve high standards of education in more senior years and actually find it easier to learn foreign languages such as French or German.

"I welcome the commitment from the Minister for Education in the Assembly Caitríona Ruane that Irish language immersion will continue in Gaelscoileanna in the Six Counties.

"I am calling on the Minister to withdraw her proposals to end Irish Language immersion in Gaelscoileanna in the Twenty Six Counties and to engage positively and genuinely with teachers, parents, unions, politicians and all other interest groups. She must also ensure that she allows herself adequate time to take all views into account." ENDS

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