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Irish Exemption FAQs

From: Department of Education and Skills

When can a school consider granting an exemption from the study of Irish?

The only circumstances in which a school can consider granting an exemption from the study of Irish are set out in the following circulars:

• for primary schools Section 2.2a, 2.2b, 2.2c and 2.2d of Circular 0052/2019

• for post-primary schools Section 2.2a, 2.2b, 2.2c and 2.2d of Circular 0053/2019

Can an application for an exemption from the study of Irish be made on behalf of pupils in an Irish-medium school?

No. The circulars apply only to recognised English-medium primary and post-primary schools.

Where a school that is participating in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme reports, for instance on POD or P-POD, that English is the medium of instruction in the school (in subjects other than English), the school may apply the terms of Circular 0052/2019 or 0053/2019 as relevant.

Can a pupil who is home-schooled or attending a school which is not a recognised primary or post-primary school be granted an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. A pupil who is home-schooled or enrolled in a school which is not recognised cannot be granted an exemption from the study of Irish.

If a pupil moves from a special school/ special class into a mainstream school/ mainstream class, do they need to apply for a certificate of exemption from the study of Irish?

No. Pupils in special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools are exempted without holding a certificate of exemption. Once a pupil holds an exemption from the study of Irish, it may be operational for the duration of their primary and post primary education.

Schools are required to record data on pupils who are exempt from the study of Irish and the reason for the exemption on the primary and post-primary on-line databases (POD) and (PPOD), including those who are transferring into the mainstream school/class from a special school/class. This is to ensure that pupils who are exempt from the study of Irish are recognised when the department validates school enrolment returns for grant payment and teacher allocation purposes.

Can a pupil who is 11 ½ enrolling in primary school in Ireland for the first time be granted an exemption from the study of Irish?

In the case of an application made under sub-paragraph 2.2a of the circulars, an exemption may be granted where the pupil has received his/her education up to 12 years of age (or up to and including the final year of their primary education) outside the State and where he/she did not have opportunity to engage in the study of Irish.

If the pupil has completed his/her primary education outside the state and this primary education did not include the study of Irish, and if the school principal is satisfied that there is evidence to this effect, then an exemption can be granted.

In the case of an application made under sub-paragraph 2.2.d, a child of a foreign diplomat or consular representative in Ireland may be exempt from the study of Irish irrespective of their age.

Can a pupil who is enrolling in school in Ireland and has no understanding of English or Irish be exempted from the study of Irish?

If the grounds for application are in line with the exceptional circumstances as set out in Section 2.2 of the Circulars and the pupil meets those criteria, then he/she may be granted an exemption from the study of Irish.

If not, in accordance with Section 4 of the Circular, the pupil should be provided with intensive English as an Additional Language (EAL) support in preparation for his/her full engagement with the Primary Language Curriculum at a level commensurate with his/her ability.

Is a pupil who has an exemption from the study of Irish required to be excluded from the Irish class?

In line with the department’s policy of inclusion, schools are expected and encouraged to provide all pupils to the greatest extent possible and in a meaningful way, with opportunities to participate in Irish language and cultural activities at a level appropriate to their learning needs.

Is a pupil with an exemption from the study of Irish, also exempt from studying foreign languages?

Circulars 0052/2019 and 0053/2019 are for exemption from the study of Irish only. Where an exemption from the study of Irish is granted, it should not be interpreted as an exemption from the study of Irish and other languages. In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools and the Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 , the study of foreign languages is optional.

Is a pupil with an exemption from the study of Irish, also considered exempt from foreign languages for 3rd level entry purposes?

3rd level entry requirements are a matter for the individual institution. Some 3rd level institutions may waive a foreign language entry requirement in the case of a student with an exemption from the study of Irish. Parents/guardians should familiarise themselves with such 3rd level entry requirements and any implications which may arise due to the holding of an exemption from the study of Irish.

Can I appeal the school principal’s decision not to grant my child an exemption from the study of Irish?

Yes, you can appeal the decision if you feel that the school principal has not followed the correct procedures in making a decision to refuse to grant an exemption from the study of Irish. You must complete an Irish Exemption Appeal Form setting out the reason(s) why the decision is being appealed and the circumstances in which it is considered that the process has not been correctly applied.

You must submit the completed Irish Exemption Appeal Form within 30 calendar days from the date the decision of the school not to grant an exemption was notified in writing to you

Where can I get an Irish Exemption Appeal Form?

Download the appeal forms here

Where do I send an Irish Exemption Appeal Form to?

You can send the Irish Exemption Appeal form by email to Irishexemptionappeal@education.gov.ie or by post to Schools Financial and Database Section, Department of Education and Skills, Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, N37 X659.

I am 18. Can I apply for an exemption from the study of Irish or appeal a decision not to grant me an exemption?

A student who has reached the age of 18 years may make their own application for an exemption from the study of Irish. A student who has reached the age of 18 years, may also appeal a decision by school management to refuse to grant them an exemption from the study of Irish.

What tests should be used in considering an application for an exemption from the study of Irish?

See guidance on the selection of tests

Note: A literacy attainment score at/below the 10th percentile in either Word Reading or Reading Comprehension or Spelling is only one aspect of the criteria to be taken into consideration when processing applications for exemption from the study of Irish in line with sub-paragraph 2.2c of the Circulars.

What is a discreet test?

A discrete test is a standalone test which assesses a single literacy skill – in this case a test of either Word Reading or Reading Comprehension or Spelling.

See Guidance on the selection of discreet tests of literacy attainment in English

Is a test score at/ below the 10th percentile in one test sufficient to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. In addition to a test score at/below the 10th percentile in one test (Word Reading, Reading Comprehension or Spelling), the pupil/student must have reached at least 2nd class and must also present with significant and persistent learning difficulties despite having had access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning over time. Documentary evidence to this effect is required including a Student Support Plan detailing:

• Regular reviews of learning needs as part of an ongoing cycle of assessment

• Target setting

• Evidence informed intervention and review, including test scores (word reading, reading comprehension, spelling, other scores of language/literacy) at key points of review.

What is meant by a significant and persistent learning difficulty?

Significant learning difficulties are those which are persistent despite ongoing intervention and review. In the context of this circular a student who is experiencing significant literacy difficulties to such a degree that their scores remain below the 10th percentile and who does not demonstrate improvement despite intervention is likely to require additional supports.

Special Education Needs a Continuum of Support provides further information and support for schools in this regard.

What is the time frame for monitoring a differentiated approach to language before an exemption may be granted?

There is no prescriptive time frame for monitoring a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning in both English and Irish. It is a matter for the school management to consider, in accordance with the principles of inclusion underpinning the Circular and in consultation with the pupil’s parent(s)/ guardian(s), the class teacher, special education teachers and the pupil, if the evidence documented in the Student Support File shows significant and persistent learning difficulties over time. Further information for schools on this process is available in Special Education Needs a Continuum of Support.

Is a psychological report or a report from an appropriate medical specialist confirming a significant learning difficulty or a test score at/below the 10th percentile sufficient grounds to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. A psychological report or a report from a medical specialist is no longer required. If such a report is already available, it may provide useful information to inform areas of need for intervention.

Is a psychological report or a report from an appropriate medical specialist recommending an exemption from the study of Irish sufficient grounds to grant an exemption from the study of Irish?

No. A psychological report is no longer a requirement for granting an exemption from the study of Irish.

The school may have psychological reports for some students. These may be useful to help inform the school in relation to need and identify interventions, but are no longer a requirement and are not the primary supporting document for granting an exemption from Irish which is a matter for the school. While an external report might recommend an exemption, it is up to the school to decide if they have the evidence, (ongoing support, response to intervention and current level of need as identified in school testing) when considering the exceptional circumstances in which an exemption should be granted.

Is it necessary for the school to carry out the testing required or can this be done externally to the school?

While the school may have external evidence/ report of a test result at/below the 10th percentile, it is up to the school to decide if they have the evidence of ongoing support, response to intervention and current level of need as identified in school testing when considering the exceptional circumstances in which an exemption may be granted.

Further information on selection of tests is available on the Irish Exemption web page.

Further support material for schools is available in Special Education Needs a Continuum of Support.

Where can I find more information/ contact details?

Further information and contact details are available on the Department’s website:

Irish Exemption .

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