In Irish-medium schools and units, the Northern Ireland Curriculum is delivered through the Irish language. This immersion education enables pupils to acquire the language naturally through daily experience in an Irish language environment.
The Irish-medium sector is increasing significantly. In Northern Ireland, Irish-medium education is currently available in 51 pre-school settings, 36 primary schools and five post-primary schools.
Most pupils in Irish-medium schools come from an English-speaking background. Irish-medium education gives pupils the opportunity to become bilingual and achieve a high level of fluency in both English and Irish. It also means they can benefit from the internationally researched advantages of bilingualism.
In pre-school, and continuing into the Foundation Stage (primary Years 1 and 2), children develop early language skills through play, practical activities, stories, songs, rhymes and games. Children’s Irish language skills develop gradually. As they progress through Key Stage 1 (primary Years 3 and 4) and Key Stage 2 (primary Years 5–7), Irish will be established as their main medium of communication. By Key Stage 2, all children will use Irish in most learning situations.
In Irish-medium schools, the formal teaching of English usually starts at the end of primary Year 3 or at the beginning of primary Year 4. By this stage, children will have acquired literacy skills in Irish that they can transfer to English language learning. By the end of Key Stage 2, children’s English language and literacy levels are comparable to that of their English-medium counterparts.
Many Irish-medium primary pupils will continue their education through Irish at post-primary level, covering all or some of the curriculum in Irish. They may also choose to sit examinations through Irish at GCSE and GCE level.
We provide a range of support for Irish-medium schools, including:
- teaching and learning resources;
- professional development materials;
- guidance documents; and
- advice on the curriculum.