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The Irish question for the new secondary school in Portlaoise

The building on Railway Street in Portlaoise where the new Dunamase College will be located

Dunamase College – the new secondary school that will open in Portlaoise in September – will offer students the opportunity to learn through Irish as well as English. And it was the Irish-language element that created most of the questions at last Thursday’s information night.

The meeting was told that for the first year that staff recruited in the first year “will have to be fluent in both languages.”

Those present were also told that students who enter the school without having attended an Irish-speaking primary school will be able to adapt very quickly.

An Irish-speaking secondary school in Kilkenny was used as an example.

“In Kilkenny, only 40% of the students came into the school from an Irish medium primary school. And they ‘caught up’ very quickly,” said Paul Fields who is the Laois-Offaly Eductation and Training Board (LEOTB) Director of Schools.

“My own son went from an all-English primary school to and Irish secondary school. Within a month or two months he was up to speed.

“A lot of the time in secondary school are picking up new terminology anyway.”

It was also suggested that a course be run during the summer to allow the new students bridge the gap and possibly one for parents also “so they can have all the basic phrases”.

A school in Kildare was also used as an example where it started with only nine students but offered 18 subjects and some of those students are now “doctors, engineers and one is back as a teacher in the school”.

“Teachers will be specialists in their own subjects and fluent in Irish,” added Aoife Elster, the school’s principal. “For the first year, all staff will have to be fluent in Irish. Plenty of teachers out there. “Part of teacher skill set. Not negotiable.”

Joe Cunningham, CEO of the LOETB, added “”I have no doubt we will get the necessary staff and the standard we require.”

It was also confirmed that teachers in the new school will be referred to by their first name, such as ‘Muinteoir Aoife’.