The principal of a Derry Irish medium school has branded the reasoning for not to replacing their voluntary nursery with a statutory nursery
Oisín MacEó from Gaelscoil na Daróige said they were now taking legal advice after Education Minister Peter Weir’s announced his department will not replace the existing part-time facility with a fully funded statutory nursery.
Speaking about the decision, Mr MacEó said:“We already provide a quality pre-school education, as the Minister’s statement has acknowledged, however it is reasonable to expect the same status and funding as the English nursery at the bottom of our street. This is a question of equality for our children and the Irish language.“
Mr MacEó assured parents of children currently enrolled that their education and the current arrangements will not be affected by this decision.
“Not only will we continue to provide the hours and quality of pre-school education that we already do, we intend to go on building on that this year, irrespective of this decision.”
He added: “The reasons given today for not granting statutory status are, quite frankly, farcical. The Minister says he cannot allow us a statutory nursery as it will displace the already existing good quality, voluntary pre-school.
“We are in effect, being punished for running a good quality voluntary pre-school.
“We also note that in making previous decisions, the Department have always considered the implications for schools within a two mile radius, as this is the acceptable walking distance to school according to the Department’s own handbook.”
Mr MacEó pointed out that before the last election, the DUP promised to halt the growth of Irish medium education , despite enrolments more than doubling in the last ten years.
He added that Minister Weir has already pulled the plug on the relocation of one gaelscoil in Belfast and pulled funding for nurture units in two others.
“Like the schools in Belfast we will also be fighting to roll back this decision,” he said. “We are currently taking legal advice on a way forward.”
Commenting on his decision, Minister Weir said: “I recognise my statutory duty in relation to Irish-medium education however, I am also bound to consider carefully all the information pertinent to any proposal to establish new provision.
“I consider each proposal on a case-by-case basis and also give regard to the potential displacement of a good quality voluntary pre-school setting.
“There are three Irish Medium (IM) primary schools within a three mile radius, two of which are currently undersubscribed for nursery provision therefore approving this proposal could create sustainability issues for all existing IM providers in the city.”
The Minister added: “I have taken account of all the information provided and have concluded that there is not enough evidence for the requirement of additional Irish-medium pre-school provision at Gaelscoil na Daróige.
“There is already sufficient provision to meet future demand for Irish-medium pre-school places in the area.”