Tús Maith, leath na hOibre! – Rang a hAon Children off to a flying start!

October 9, 2012

On the 3rd September Thirteen new faces entered the Rang a 1 classroom of Gaelscoil phádraig Naofa, and although starting school can be a daunting exercise, they are all taking to school life, and to bilingualism like the probverbial ducks to water. Already these four and five year olds can be heard  chanting ‘Maidin Mhaith!’, ‘dia daoibh’ and even ‘Tá muid ar fheabhas!’ (we are excellent) as they skip through the corridors of the Gaelscoil. It really is incredible to bear witness to the way, every year, the majority of Gaelscoil Rang a 1’s start school with no Irish at home, and yet, as early as Halloween they are comprehending all that the teacher says, by Christmas they are stating to express themselves in their native language, and by Easter most are speaking Irish with complete fluency. This rate of progress often amazes parents, and they see first hand how effective the language immersion system works, where the children’s learning becomes incidental and unconscious, similar  to the way the first language is acquired.

Over 37,00 children are educated in Irish-medium schools throughout Ireland, and this figure continues to rise every year, as statistic both at home and from other countries such as Wales, Canada and the Basque Country show that children who have two languages are  achieving at a higher rate in the curriculum and show higher performance in exams. A research briefing published by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland indicated that former pupils of Irish-medium education attained a higher academic standard than might be expected among the general population of the same age group. Other advantages to Gaeloideachas and bilingual education include flexibility in a child’s thinking, raised self-esteem, a broader accessibility to their culture and the ability to learn further languages with greater ease. Gaelscoil Phádraig Naofa celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year, and the impact it has had in that time frame is astounding. To date, 140 children have passed through the doors of rang 1, and 34 have moved on the secondary education in Crossmaglen, Newry, Armagh (Irish-medium) and Monaghan (Irish-medium). Gaelscoil Phádraig Naofa pupils and past-pupils have received accolades at a national level in drama, football, recitation and singing. Academically all of former Rang 7 pupils have sat and passed the exam for a Gold Fáinne for fluency in Irish, and last term many of our past-pupils sat their GCSE Irish at just 13 years old.

With the mounting statistics and research that support the advantages of bilingual education, and the success to date of Gaelscoil Phádraig Naofa pupils, who knows what dizzy heights Aaron, Charlie, Eoin, Niamh, Bláithín, Orlaith, Lynsey, Katie, Grace, Cliodhna, Eimear, Aobha and Holly will reach? As the Gaelic Expression goes, ‘Tús maith, leath na hoibre!’ – a good start is half the work!