New Dungiven Irish language school praised by inspectors
AN IRISH language school that opened amid controversy with just 16 pupils has been praised in its first ever inspection report for its leadership and pupil achievements.
Gaelcholaiste Dhoire became just the second fully-immersive Irish-medium post-primary school in Northern Ireland when it opened in September 2015 in Dungiven Castle.
The approval of such a small school angered unionist politicians. Education minister John O'Dowd came under fire for the decision at a time when his budget was facing massive cuts.
It is hoped the school will grow to cater for up to 400 pupils. Numbers have grown from the 16 original pupils to 48 now, 32 of them in Year 8.
The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) visited last year and has just published its report, which gave the school the second highest rating.
Achievements and standards and leadership and management were both found to be "very good" while provision for learning was "good".
Throughout the school, the pupils' literacy and numeracy skills were found to be developing well.
Inspectors noted that children's "use of Irish as the language of learning and social interaction is a significant strength of the school". Most of the lessons observed were "good or better in promoting learning, with almost one-half being highly effective - very good to outstanding".
The report also found that leadership at all levels had developed well since the establishment of the school.
Principal Diarmaid Ua Bruadair said governors, parents and school leaders set high expectations for the school and its pupils.
"The quality of the educational experience that is being offered to the students at the school is excellent and unique. The inspection report illustrates a snapshot of life at the school, however the full extent of the educational experience would require much more space.
"The report highlights the progress that pupils have made in Irish language literacy which is tangible in a short space of time. This highlights the importance of the linguistic environment in immersion education.
"This environment allows students whose first language is not Irish to develop high level literacy skills in the language to access the full curriculum through the medium of that language."