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Gaelscoil Ui Neill, Co. Tyrone

English in Irish Medium School

But what about their English, does speaking in Irish not affect their English?  The simple answer to this question is; ‘No’.  While we aim for 100% immersion in Irish the first two years in an Irish-school, the children are developing their literacy skills in Irish, which they can later transfer to English.  Our rationale for focussing on Irish predominantly in the first two years is to ensure that the children consolidate their development in Irish.  When this has been achieved, we introduce English in Primary 3, with some pupils already having become fluent readers in English; having transferred the skills they have learned in Irish to English. 

Typically, however, approximately 95% of children in Irish school come from families that do not have Irish at home.  Once again, this does not get in the way of the children’s education and development as research from Canada points to the children reaching the same levels in literacy in the target language by the age of 8 or 9 (in our case, Irish) and then reaching the same levels in English as their peers in monolingual schools by the age of 11 or 12.  Indeed, by this age, not only are the children fluent in Irish, but they have developed the capacity to learn more quickly; they have become better learners – and this is perhaps the reason why a significantly higher proportion of children from Irish-medium schools go to university.