Irish-medium Education

Information on Irish-medium Education (IME) available in Northern Ireland.

The Education Authority supports the Department of Education in fulfilling their statutory duty to “encourage and facilitate” the development of Irish-medium education.

What is Irish-medium Education (IME)?

Irish-medium Education is a form of immersion education in which the curriculum is taught in Irish. Pupils listen to, and communicate in Irish both inside, and outside the classroom, allowing them to learn the language naturally. Irish medium pupils start to learn English when they have acquired a strong foundation in the target language.

IME is provided across Northern Ireland, through a number of ‘stand-alone’ Irish-medium schools, both primary and post-primary, and also through Irish-medium Units / Streams attached to English Medium schools. The number of IME schools and units is growing.  Currently, there are almost 8000 pupils in IME, along with 450 teachers in:

  • 45 Nurseries
  • 35 Primaries
  • 5 Post Primaries

To find out more about Irish-medium Education, watch this 4-minute video narrated by Róise, who has completed her primary Irish medium education journey from Naíscoil to Rang a 7 and is about to embark on her post-primary journey.

Legislation

The Identity and Language (NI) Act 2022 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom providing "official recognition of the status of the Irish language" in Northern Ireland, with Ulster Scots being an officially recognised minority language.

The Department of Education has a statutory duty to “encourage and facilitate” the development of Irish-medium education. The Education Authority embraces every opportunity to support DE in fulfilling this duty.

Finding an Irish-medium Education school

There are IME schools in all six counties of Northern Ireland. To find your nearest IME school, see the ‘search schools’ link below.

FAQs

What is Irish-medium Education (IME) and how does it work?

In an IM school, pupils and staff do most of their work through Irish. Many children start their IM journey with no words of Irish, but learning is fast in an immersive setting where spoken and written Irish is all around the children during every learning experience, for example, during play, story and snack times.

All teaching is through Irish in the Foundation and early Key Stage One.  Pupils start to learn to read and write in English when they are ready (usually P3 to P4). IM pupils follow the same curriculum as all other pupils, with the added bonus of learning a language at the same time. IM learners leave school as competent and confident bilinguals, highly fluent in two languages.

What if a parent has no Irish - Can they still send their child to an IM school?

Yes. The majority of parents who send their children to an Irish Medium school don’t speak Irish. Irish Medium teachers are experienced in supporting all parents regardless of their level of Irish.

How will the immersion setting impact on my child’s standard of English language?

Pupils who attend Irish Medium Education leave primary school with similar levels of English language as those who learn through the medium of English language. Research shows that learning through another language can actually enhance English language development.

What are the benefits of Immersion Education?

Immersion education enables children to acquire an additional language from when they begin their school journey. Learners become bilingual and bi-literate users of language and the benefits of bilingualism have been recognised and substantiated by research i.e.

  • Bilingual people use more of their brain and have improved working and long-term memory.
  • Bilingual people see the world from different perspectives, they have two windows on the world.
  • Bilingualism improves cognitive functioning, and research reveals that it can shield or defer the onset of dementia in later life.

Is Irish Medium Education available to all people of different faiths and none?

Irish Medium provision is available across all main sectors, including the Controlled, Maintained, Grant-maintained and Integrated sectors. Though some Irish Medium schools align with a particular faith identity, the majority of schools describe their faith status as all embracing – open to those of all faiths, and those of none.  The multi-denominational nature of the sector is evidenced by the broad profile of faith and non-faith families who attend.

Is Immersion Education suitable for children with additional or special educational needs?

Irish Medium schools have a wholly inclusive ethos and staff endeavour to support each child to achieve their full potential. If your child has an additional need, we recommend that you contact your local Irish-medium school to discuss how they can support your child.

Can my child complete their whole school journey in Irish?

Many children have completed their full education through the medium of Irish. The sector is growing and there are an increasing number of IM post primary schools / units to meet the needs of learners across NI.

If my child has no local access to IM education, will I be supported in their travel to the nearest IM school?

The Education Authority will provide transport, or a transport allowance to enable your child to attend your nearest IM school, if the school is:

  • More than 2 miles from your home for a primary pupil
  • More than 3 miles from your home for a post primary pupil

For further information, or to apply visit the Home to School transport section of the EAs website.

To find the answer to other questions which parents considering IME might have, please see the Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta website parent section.

Parent and Pupil Voice

“Having attended an IM Primary and Post-Primary school, and then studied at University, I am now working in Construction in Dublin. I don’t usually use Irish in my work environment, but I do use it daily to speak with friends and family. I am glad my parents made the decision to send me to IME as it is a gift to be able to speak fluently in two languages. ‘Beatha Teanga í a labhairt’.” Pádraig, Aged 22

Is mise Conn. Tá mise i Rang a 4 agus téim ar ghaelscoil. I scoil s’againn, labhraímid i nGaeilge an t-am ar fad, ach amháin, nuair atámid ag dul don Bhéarla. Is breá liom go mór bheith ábalta dhá theanga a labhairt agus tá mé iontach bródúil as mo chuid Gaeilge.

My name is Conn. I am in Primary 4 and I go to a Gaelscoil. In our school, we speak Irish all the time, except when we are learning English. I love being able to speak both languages and I am very proud of my Irish. Conn, Rang a 4

I had no Irish when I chose to send my eldest child to an Irish Medium School. As she and her three younger siblings have made their journey through IME and have emerged as confident bilinguals, able to speak, read and write fluently in Irish and in English, I am continually filled with pride. I am so glad that I chose to send them through Irish medium as though I worried about being able to support them without having Irish myself, my decision to do so has been validated a million times over, not least when I see them sit round the table and catch up with each other ‘as Gaeilge’. Tina, parent

As parents, we made the decision to send our first child to Naíscoil and were very happy with the experience. We didn't have any Irish ourselves but we felt really well supported by the school and so followed on with IM Education all three children. Currently, our eldest girl is in Rang a 9, we have one in Rang a 7 and one in Rang a 5. All three are flourishing and are able to converse in either English or Irish equally well. Their ability to adapt so quickly is unreal. We have learnt a small bit along the way but we wouldn't have the language required to conduct any school meetings through Irish. Again, that is no issue. Orla & Shane, parents

Useful Contacts

For further information on Irish-medium Education from EA, you can email: [email protected]

Visit Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta for more information.

Last updated: 20/03/2024