Education news

Scoil and Droichid seeking extra pupil places

Scoil an Droichid currently operates from modular buildings in the lower Ormeau area

A growing Irish language school hopes to admit even more pupils ahead of a move into a new building.

Scoil an Droichid wants to increase its admissions from 145 to 182 next year.

The bunscoil opened in 1997 to provide primary age children in south and east Belfast the opportunity to be educated through the medium of Irish.

It is the only Irish-medium school on that side of the city and its numbers are above its official capacity and growing annually.

It currently operates from modular buildings in the lower Ormeau area and many of these are in a poor state.

The Education Authority (EA) has agreed to let it re-locate onto the site of the former Ulidia PS where it will be given "modern, fit-for-purpose accommodation".

A business case has been approved by the Department for Education.

Ulidia served the Ballynafeigh area of Ormeau Road. While this is a mixed area, it has experienced controversies in recent years when union and Northern Ireland flags were flown from lampposts.

In advance of the move, the school is seeking an increase in pupil numbers. It is the latest such proposal to come from the ever-expanding Irish-medium sector.

Campaigners predict that the number of children being educated through Irish will increase significantly over the next four years.

Research from Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG), the council for Irish-medium education, also predicted an almost 100 per cent rise over a 15-year period.

In 2006/07, the sector educated 3,660 children. This increased to 5,873 last year - up 60 per cent.

CnaG predicts that by 2021, there will be 7,220 children receiving education through Irish.

A case for change document, published by the EA ahead of a public consultation, said Scoil an Droichid was "a sustainable school".

"It is an emerging school with strong enrolments which is moving forward each year and given the proper accommodation, site and facilities will continue to offer high quality education through the medium of Irish for many years to come," the EA said.

"The long-term benefits of this proposal would be recognised not only within Scoil an Droichid but also across multiple levels of IM provision.

"An increase in the approved admissions for primary provision would result in greater numbers leaving the IM sector at the end of Primary 7 and consequently, add to the potential pool of pupils for IM post-primary provision in Belfast."

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