Northern Ireland news

Number of Irish-medium post-primary schools in Northern Ireland set to double

The number of Irish-medium post-primary schools in Northern Ireland is set to double, according to new plans from the Education Authority
Marie Louise McConville

TWO new Irish-medium secondary schools could open in the next few years - doubling the sector's number of post-primaries.

Fresh plans from the Education Authority (EA) include options for Irish-medium post-primary schools in north Belfast and in the west.

This would help meet demand in the Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster, Derry City and Strabane council areas.

Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) said establishing the schools will help "to meet the needs of pupils".

They are described as "medium-term" projects, however, and there are no details about their exact potential location.

There were more than 7,000 pupils in Irish-medium education in the 2021/22, a rise of about 1,300 pupils in five years.

There are currently two Irish-language post-primaries in Northern Ireland - Gaelcholáiste Dhoire in Dungiven and Coláiste Feirste in west Belfast.

The proposals are contained in the EA's operational plan for 2022-2024, which also outlines potential expansion of the integrated and special school sectors.

They have been drawn up with input from other bodies including the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), CnaG, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), and the Transferor Representatives' Council.

While it was found that the number of school-age children in Northern Ireland overall is expected to fall over in the next 10 years, the demand for special-school places has risen substantially and is expected to keep growing.

The EA said there needed to be more places in special schools and also in mainstream schools for pupils with special educational needs in every council area in the north.

Two new special schools are planned. Consultation is due to begin soon on a proposal for a new special school in Belfast and the EA is also proposing a new special school in Mid Ulster, possibly Cookstown though this has not been confirmed. There could also be an expansion of Harberton North campus in Belfast to provide more special school places.

The number of integrated school places is also set to rise in some areas with the plans including a new integrated primary school in Derry and another in Belfast.

The EA document also highlights some areas where "sustainability" is an issue.

These include Ballynahinch, Crossgar and Saintfield.

Northern Ireland news