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Irish Language

Volume 228: debated on Thursday 8 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) which experts in Irish-medium education advised the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education on the appropriateness of the courses in subject application, education and professional studies in the BEd degree at St. Mary's college, Belfast and in the PGCE course at Queen's university, Belfast to the needs of teachers of Irish in Irish-medium primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland and of his Department;(2) what action his Department intends to take in relation to the training of teachers of the Irish language;(3) if the written advice of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education is available to the public;(4) what criteria were adopted by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education in determining the appropriateness of courses in subject application, education and professional studies in the BEd degree at St. Mary's college, Belfast and in the PGCE course at the Queen's university of Belfast to the needs of teachers of Irish in Irish-medium primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland;(5) who are the experts in (i) the teaching of Irish and (ii) modern language teaching methodology who advised the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education on the appropriateness of the course in Celtic for the BEd degree at St. Mary's college, Belfast to the needs of student teachers of Irish in Northern Ireland and of his Department;(6) what criteria were adopted by the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in determining whether the Celtic course in the BEd degree at St. Mary's college, Belfast is suitable for the needs of student teachers of Irish in Northern Ireland.

As a precondition of approval by the Department of Education, courses of initial teacher training—ITT—in Northern Ireland are considered by the Council for the Accreditation of the Teacher Education —CATE—and required to meet certain defined Government criteria. The form and nature of these criteria are currently set out in the Department's circular 1989/40 "Initial Teacher Training Approval of Courses" which replaced circular 1985/20. Bachelor of education courses at St. Mary's college of education and post-graduate certificate of education courses at St. Mary's and Queen's university, with a main subject option of Celtic which student teachers of Irish undertake, were considered against Government criteria set out in circular 1985/20 and were approved as suitable courses of teacher training in December 1989. To help CATE in its work, all ITT institutions in Northern Ireland were visited and reported on by the Department's inspectorate. Circulars 1985/20 and 1989/40 are in the public domain, but the advice given by CATE to the Department in respect of courses at individual institutions is confidential. A review of ITT in Northern Ireland is currently under way. Developments emanating from this review are likely to affect the mode and content of all ITT courses; include an increase in school-based initial teacher training and a clearer definition of the competences which successful teachers would be expected to have as they progress through initial teacher training, induction and the more advanced stages of their careers. After a period of consultation, any changes resulting from the review will be announced later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will give details of the nature and scope of research into the teaching of Irish carried out by the staff of St. Mary's college and of the department and school of education of the Queen's university of Belfast since 1980.

The emphasis in recent years has not been on research into the teaching of modern languages, including Irish, but on the provision of professional support and production of learning materials for use in the classroom. St. Mary's college of education, in conjunction with my Department and the education and library boards, has been actively involved in this area. One notable result has been the production of a graded reading scheme for children learning to read through the medium of Irish.At Queen's university, research into the teaching of Irish has been part of on-going research into the teaching of modern languages.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many times inspectors from his Department have furnished him and his predecessors with reports on the teaching of Irish in higher education in the past 20 years; and what arrangements exist to make these reports available to the public.

There has been one substantive report on the teaching of Irish in St. Mary's college of education, which formed part of a general inspection of the college in 1987.This report was not a published document. It was supplied in confidence to the college authorities and to the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.