The thriving Gaelscoil na gCrann has much to celebrate ahead of its upcoming open days. Based in Killyclogher, the Irish Medium school is set to move into their £3.4 million school and brand new nursery school unit in April this year. The state of the art project, being built by Woodvale Construction, will feature a total of seven permanent classrooms, a nursery unit and catering facilities, and this is something that principal, Deirdre Nic Cionnaith described as a ‘huge boost’ to the already- thriving school. “The new build is proof that Irish Medium education is going from strength-to-strength,” she said. “By granting us with the seven classroom new build, it shows the Department of Education’s confidence in the school. It is a huge milestone for us.”
The successful year that the school had last year in being crowned All Ireland Drama Champions, Choir Feis Winners, F1 Jaguar STEM competition winners at both regional and National levels in England. When the bilingual school first opened to the public in 2006, it had just 30 pupils on the register. But fast forward to 2020, and the school boasts an enrolment of 191 children from across the Omagh area, who are all being educated in Irish. This number is continually growing year on year. It boasts approximately 20 staff members, including eight teachers and seven classroom assistants. The pupils are taught exactly the same curriculum as their neighbouring schools, only it is through the medium of Irish.
“We are one of the biggest Gaelscoils west of the Bann, and we’re still growing,” Deirdre described. “The kids just love coming to school, and they quickly become fluent in both English and Irish. “There are lifelong benefits of bilingual education. Research shows that it improves the working memory, and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. At our school, the children are completely immersed in Irish from nursery until primary three. “From primary three onwards, we formally introduce English, and place a strong emphasis on the teaching of English from then until year seven.”
Deirdre added, “Our children excel at the English language, and this is backed up by the results of standardised testing and evidence from the Department of Education, which shows that children in Irish Medium primary schools are out-performing their English-speaking counterparts, in both English and Maths at the end of Key Stage 2. “But it’s important not to be put off by the fact that we are an Irish-speaking school,” Deirdre concluded. “The majority of our parents don’t have any Irish, and all our homework is in English so that parents still play a vital role in their child’s education at both home and at school”
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