Irish nursery refused

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

THE principal of the Irish-language school in Kilkeel has said that despite their application for a nursery unit being turned down, pre-school facilities are as strong as ever.

Niall Loughran said that while they were "obviously disappointed" at the outcome of the minister's decision, their focus remained on maintaining the high level of Irish-language education they continue to provide.

Last month Education Minister Peter Weir rejected the proposal for a statutory 26-place part-time Irish-medium nursery unit at Gaelscoil na mBeann in Kilkeel.

Gaelscoil na mBeann was established in 2010 by a group of parents who wanted an Irish-medium education for their children.

At the beginning of this year, due to the continuing growth in pupil numbers, they moved to a more suitable, larger, bespoke building, sharing a campus with St Columban's High School, Kilkeel.

Mr Loughran was also keen to point out that despite the rejection, they are not left without a nursery unit.

“There seems to be a misunderstanding among people who are not yet part of our school's community that our development proposal was to establish a nursery school, when in fact it was only to change the status to statutory.

“Naíscoil na mBeann's doors opened 10 years ago and it has been providing a high quality immersion experience since then. Currently we are full to capacity and enrolment for September 2017 is looking strong also," he said.

“We were obviously disappointed, but ultimately the nursery is thriving and the minister's decision will have no impact on us continuing to offer a very high standard of early years education in Naíscoil na mBeann."

DUP MLA Mr Weir turned down the proposal for the nursery unit, saying the demand for pre-school places was "being met".

“Taking all considerations into account including statutory duties in relation to Irish-medium education, I am also bound to consider carefully all the information pertinent to any proposal to establish new provision on a case-by-case basis and the potential displacement of good quality pre-existing pre-school provision within the sector," he said.

"The demand for pre-school places in the area is currently being met and there is scope to increase provision within the voluntary/private sector should demand for places increase.

“From all the information provided, it leads me to conclude that the evidence does not currently support the establishment of a statutory part-time Irish-medium nursery unit at Gaelscoil na mBeann."

While not being drawn into whether he felt the rejection was politically motivated or not, Mr Loughran, said they had been "hopeful" of a positive outcome but ultimately "understand the minister's decision".

"Our staff and families have great faith in how we mange the Naíscoil, in fact many of then are involved at committee level or parents' association level, and therefore they realise that the decision will not impact their childrens' experiences," said Mr Loughran.

"On the contrary, this has not been a setback at all. The committee of the nursery made the commitment to the communities of Kilkeel and Mourne that it would establish and maintain an Irish medium nursery for all of our children. This has not changed.

“Our intake is rising every year, the Gaelscoil (Irish medium primary) located beside the Naíscoil is growing in numbers also. We employ an excellent, experienced and fully qualified teacher in the nursery as we strongly believe that a good start in early years' education is extremely beneficial."

And looking to the future, Mr Loughran said that little will change in their work and commitment to the school and pupils.

“We plan to continue as we are. We are a bone fide cross community nursery and primary school," he said.

"Our children thrive socially, academically, spiritually and physically throughout their time with us. That the development proposal was turned done does not change anything."


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