At the end of October, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth (DCEDIY) released the results from a survey on Irish-medium provision of Early Years and School Age Care settings. The survey followed a five-year action plan published in 2018 that included a series of commitments relating to Irish language provision in Early Years and School Age Care (EY and SAC) settings. One commitment was to develop a Comprehensive Plan and to do so a survey of Irish-medium EY and SAC settings including childminders. The survey was also used as a chance to ask providers what supports, services, and resources would be most useful to support Irish-medium provision.
318 EY and SAC settings responded to the survey and 283 of these reported that they use at least some Irish every day. This can be broken down into 132 wholly Irish-medium settings, 71 mixed settings (where part of a setting is English-medium and part is Irish-medium), and 80 English-medium settings with some use of Irish. 92 respondents were in a Gaeltacht region and one of these was an English-medium setting. 38 childminders responded to the survey and 14 of these reported that they can work through Irish but only nine were currently working through Irish. Three childminders were in a Gaeltacht region.
In total, 217 EY and SAC settings and childminders were wholly Irish-medium services or were mixed settings. This includes 88 in a Gaeltacht region. Donegal had the highest with 41 in the whole county and 31 in Gaeltacht regions. This was followed by Galway with 31 and 24 in Gaeltacht regions. Dublin has the third highest with 30.
According to the survey, there were 297 EY and SAC settings and childminders with some use of Irish. This includes wholly Irish-medium settings, mixed settings, and English-medium settings with some use of Irish. Dublin had the highest number with 44 followed by 43 in Donegal and 37 in Galway.
The survey allowed respondents to choose from a list of different supports and to express which supports should be prioritised. The following supports were listed:
- Communities of Practice
- Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training opportunities
- Irish language classes/course
- Other supports.
According to the survey, respondents from EY and SAC settings saw Irish language courses as the most useful type of support, with 46 per cent seeing them as the highest priority support. 47 per cent of childminders saw this support as the highest priority. Respondents were able to write in responses the questions and indicated they wanted a variety of Irish language courses and classes at various levels, including degree programmes, immersion language courses, basic Irish language courses, conversational Irish classes, and classes on supporting children learning a second language. Classes for parents were also suggested.
The figures are also split between Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht regions. In Gaeltacht regions, 59 per cent of respondents agree that Irish language courses are the highest priority. However, outside of Gaeltacht regions there is more variation. 49 per cent of respondents from EY and SAC settings saw resources such as books, posters, phrases and pronunciations, games, songs, rhymes, and flash cards were the highest priority.
All childminders in Gaeltacht regions saw webinars as the highest priority, with 67 per cent seeing CPD and Irish language courses as the highest priority supports. Outside of Gaeltacht regions, 46 per cent of childminders saw Irish language courses as the highest priority, followed by 39 per cent who saw resources as the highest priority.
The findings from the survey indicated that among the settings that answered the relevant questions, 6,255 children from 230 settings take part in some level of Irish-medium Early Years provision, and 2,921 children from 99 settings take part in some level of Irish-medium School Age Care provision. 936 Early Years Educators from 258 surveys are working with children through the Irish language. As part of their responses to the survey, respondents indicated that supports such as CPD, training opportunities, and resources that are available in English should also be available in Irish.
Surveys such as this are critical to the Early Years and School Age Care sector as they provide new and relevant data that can help plan for the future of the sector. In Early Childhood Irelands 2024 Budget Submission, we advocated for the implementation of the ‘Better data’ recommendations from Partnership for the Public Good and the establishment of a system of national and local 2-year and 5-year planning cycles, to ensure there are enough Early Years and School Age Care places, in settings and in childminders’ homes, for children in their own communities.
You can read Early Childhood Ireland’s Policy Proposal in depth on our website, and you can also read our statement to the Joint Oireachtas Committee last week. If you have any questions or would like to know more about our work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.