Naíonra parents find more questions than answers

An ad-hoc committee of Connemara parents have come back with more questions than answers following their meeting with the board of the Ionad Tacaíochta Teaghlaigh in relation to their policies for running the local Naíonra.

A group of 30 parents met at the Poitín Stil in Indreabhán on Monday night to find out the response from the ITT board on concerns surrounding their staff issues and Irish language policy- which involves the separation of children based on their command of Irish.

Most of the questions asked by the committee, however, were redirected to the newly appointed temporary manager who was not in attendance on the night of the committee’s meeting with the ITT board.

The committee did say that the ITT were very insistent on their Irish language policy despite an apparent majority of parents who don’t want the segregation of children based on their language skills.

Committee member Caroline Schmidt said it felt they were prioritising the language over the well-being of the children.

“We all want our children to have the highest level of Irish but it’s like they are putting the Irish language to one side and the welfare of children to another when they should be working together,” she said.

The committee noted that the ITT board did not seem to be well informed with regards to the Síolta Early Childhood Care and Education guidelines that were mentioned by the group of parents.

They also questioned the validity of the study the ITT used to justify their policy which said the best way for both native and non-native child speakers to learn is to be grouped with similarly-skilled speakers.

Committee member Anne Marie Gannon said that the report looked as if it was commissioned by the Department of the Gaeltacht and argued that if this was the case then it would be limited by having such a profound conflict of interest.

“What they are basing this on is very questionable because it is not an independent study to our knowledge.

“We haven’t been able to find any evidence that the study has been peer reviewed or published in any scientific journal so we can’t be sure of the validity of this study,” she added.

Staffing was another concern raised at the meeting with only one appointment confirmed to the committee despite the naíonra opening its doors on Wednesday. The ITT reassured parents there would be an adequate number of staff by the start of the term with interviews being held last Thursday.

There was confusion over this timeline as those in attendance at the Poitín Stil argued that from their experience, Garda vetting would take at least a week to complete.

The committee said that they brought this up with the ITT board and they assured them that the process would only take a few days because they were doing it online.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh was also at the meeting to give help to the committee and he says that it was important that these issues were brought to the board’s attention.

“The parents are now going to monitor how this Irish language policy is implemented and will come back to it this September,” he added.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that the meeting at the end of September would give an indication whether the board listened to the parent’s concerns.

“The upcoming meeting is about following up on these issues, and it’s a test to see how seriously the ITT are taking the concerns of the parents.”