UPPER Bann MLA and Education Minister John O’Dowd announced a £230,000 funding scheme to encourage people to develop Irish language skills during a visit to St John the Baptist Primary School in Portadown last week.
The Minister was accompanied by Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, whose Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is aligned to language funding scheme via the Liofa initiative and the draft Irish language strategy. The scheme aims to offer additional funding to existing extended school cluster groups to wish to run Irish language programmes.
Mr O’Dowd told pupils and teachers, “The Irish language is an integral part of our rich and shared heritage and my department has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education. One of the recommendations arising from the review of Irish-medium education was that my Department should encourage and support informal opportunities for learning Irish through the Extended Schools Programme and increase access to those not currently accessing Irish-medium education.
“In the Portadown Extended School cluster, St John the Baptist partners with seven other schools to offer a varied and diverse range of activities. I am particularly pleased to see that they are offering a number of programmes for parents. There is an increasing recognition of the vital role that parents play in helping and encouraging their child in his or her learning. The community at St John’s is an excellent model of how parents can get involved in their child’s education and I am delighted to see evidence of the value this community places on education.
“All existing extended school cluster groups will be able to apply for additional funding to provide programmes that will encourage children to develop their skills in the use of Irish and to also provide support for parents who wish to develop their own key Irish literacy and numeracy skills.”
The Education Minister added, “I am making £230,000 available this year, with the intention of continuing the funding for the next two years. This will depend on the interest shown and the progress that is made on the ground. The programme will support my department’s over-arching goal of raising standards for all, closing the performance gap and increasing access and equity. Funding will also be provided to support programmes aimed at communities who wish to develop Irish language skills that can be more widely used at home or in the workplace.”