School rewarded for encouraging Irish study beyond 16
A south Derry school has secured funding for a major project to encourage more pupils to study Irish beyond the age of 16.
St Mary's Grammar School in Magherafelt is celebrating winning a British Academy Language Award.
The scheme is designed to support schools to implement imaginative new ways of encouraging more young people to take language learning to higher levels.
It also strives to address the social imbalance in the profile of language learners when they leave school.
The award scheme seeks to identify and stimulate good practice in this area which can be shared more widely. A panel of judges assessed the originality, credibility and potential replicability of the proposals, with particular emphasis this year on building partnerships.
St Mary's was the only school from the north to win the award this year.
The school's Irish department aims to support the whole curriculum, with staff aiming to teach in a meaningful context, providing pupils with experiences of using Irish creatively and with confidence.
Specifically, the department aims to foster a knowledge and appreciation of Irish as an indigenous language and encourage pupils to develop personal qualities, such as self-confidence, independence and effective communication.
It won the award for its Gaeltalk project, which will involve 40 sixth form pupils who are learning Irish or from an Irish-medium background. It will enable them to develop media skills by creating Irish language videos and radio broadcasts, an online blog and a YouTube channel.
The school said funding would be used to purchase media equipment to help young people work collaboratively to produce a series of short promotional clips pertaining to the use of Irish in the locality.
In addition, pupils will further their communication and thinking skills as they design and produce a series of podcasts which focus on local cultural aspects including sport and musical talent, both contemporary and traditional.
"The award is a fantastic recognition of the talents and dedication to Irish which is displayed by the students within the department," said school head of Irish Wayne Mac Feilimí.
"In a time where the Irish language is enjoying a huge revival in the north, it is important to recognise that the focus for the next generation of Irish speakers will be on the skills that they possess. I believe that this sustainable project is an excellent platform to enable our students to demonstrate and develop the wealth of skills that they possess."
British Academy Chief Executive Alun Evans paid tribute to the award recipients.
The British Academy is strongly committed to helping to increase the range of languages learnt as well as encouraging greater numbers of students to take those which are commonly taught in schools and colleges.
"We're delighted that schools across the UK have responded passionately with such high quality applications, understanding the importance of language skills. We hope they will continue to inspire and challenge their pupils with learning initiatives and help to ensure the next generation are thoroughly equipped with the language skills they need," Mr Evans said.