Education news

Irish-language schools conference to look at impact of `nurture' groups

Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta's conference will attract delegates from schools across Ireland

IRISH-language educators from north and south will gather this week to examine issues including the experience of the `nurture' approach to schooling.

Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the representative body for Irish-medium education in the north, will hold its annual conference on Thursday in An Carn, Maghera.

It is expected to attract delegates from schools across Ireland as well as representatives from Irish language, educational and cultural bodies.

Speakers will contribute on various subjects including new electronic resources for Irish-medium education and the Irish-medium experience of the nurture approach.

Nurture groups work to improve social, emotional and behavioural outcomes among children from some of the most deprived areas.

Scoil an Droichid in south Belfast and Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin in the north of the city started operating nurture groups last September.

The proposed pilot scheme for Irish-medium education had looked under threat when the schools were told there was no money available. This led to a protest on the steps of Stormont's parliament buildings.

The concept has been widely developed across the UK to address identified behavioural needs within schools, offering a safe and welcoming environment to promote learning and positive behaviours.

They are recognised as playing a key role in tackling under-achievement early in a child's life by providing targeted support.

Hundreds of children - from P1 to P3 - benefit from extra help in special facilities that are typically equipped with kitchens, sofas, and quiet rooms.

The Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen's University Belfast last year published a report into the impact of the units in primary schools.

It found clear evidence that nurture group provision was "highly successful in its primary aim of achieving improvements in the social, emotional and behavioural skills of children from deprived areas exhibiting significant difficulties".

Also due to speak at An Carn is Feargal Mac Bhloscaidh from Coláiste Feirste, who will present on extended writing, and Seán Fennel from Gaelscoil na bhFál who will deliver a workshop on language support at Key Stage 2.

In addition, Tracey McGovern from Middletown Centre for Autism will address pressing questions around special educational needs (SEN), and two newly-formed Irish-medium SEN cluster-groups will lead a session for SEN coordinators.

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