History was made this week with the official announcement of the simultaneous opening of three brand new Irish language nursery schools in Northern Ireland in the 2017/18 academic year. Among the schools formally launched by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the statutory body with responsibility for the development of Irish medium education, was Armagh’s latest addition to the Irish medium sector, Náiscoil na Caille [Eng: The Callan Nursery]. The announcement was made at a formal event to mark the occasion in Cultúrlann MacAdam Ó Fiaich on Belfast’s Falls Road at the weekend.
The Irish language community in Armagh were especially jubilant as the surge in demand for places in Irish medium education has meant that there are also now three full time ‘naíscoileanna’ [Eng: nursery schools]in operation within the Cathedral City. In addition, the nearby town of Keady also has full-time Irish nursery provision in Naíscoil an Chéide while Portadown, Lurgan and Crossmaglen all have both nursery and primary education available through the medium of Irish.
Speaking at the launch, pre-school leader of Naíscoil na Caille, Orlágh Ní Néill, welcomed the assistance that had come from a number of agencies to help establish the new school on the Cathedral Road:
“This is a very exciting time for Irish medium education in Armagh. Interest in the sector has surged in recent years and we’re struggling to cope with demand for places. This appears to be the situation across the north as this is the first time that three new schools have been officially launched in the same academic year. I’d like to thank our colleagues in Foras na Gaeilge, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta and CAIRDE Teo for the tremendous support that they have offered us in establishing the new nursery. We are almost at full capacity and the children are settling in really well to the immersion programme. I’d also like to thank our parents and staff at the school who do a wonderful job in supporting the children with their transition to bilingual education”.
Strategic Development Officer with CAIRDE Teo, Gearóid Ó Machail, added his congratulations:
“As a parent of children who have come through the Irish medium sector, I’ve experienced at first hand the manifold benefits provided by bilingualism. Learning a second language comes naturally to children and numerous studies have outlined the cognitive advantages of duo and multilingualism, both in childhood and in later life.
“I’d like to congratulate Orlágh, Kerri and all the team at Naíscoil na Caille for their tremendous work in getting the new school off the ground. We are looking forward to working with them on a range of extra-curricular activities for the children as part of our broader annual programme of events for Irish speakers and their families. I’d also like to congratulate Naíscoil na Fíobha in Toomebridge, Co. Antrim and Naíscoil Ghreanacháin in Swatragh, Co. Derry on the successful opening of their new nurseries”.