‘MIND YOUR LANGUAGE!'
Bilingualism - The Gift of Language for life
Irish-Medium - It's the Best of Both!
The inspiration for the development of Irish language schools and aspiration for Irish-medium education lies primarily in the spiritual essence of the individual. This may be the most challenging form of positive cultural expression for the individual but for many it represents the strongest manifestion of one's inner selfness, a feeling shared and cherished by language communities throughout the world.
The drive towards uniform globalisation has led to an enhanced desire to nurture and celebrate that which is best in the richness and diversity of the world's cultures.
IRISH-MEDIUM EDUCATION & THE STEELESTOWN STORY
The establishment of Bunscoil Cholmcille constituted only the second IM primary level provision in Northern Ireland, the first being Bunscoil Phobal Feirste in Belfast. In its thirtieth year it remains the only Irish-medium school in N. Ireland affiliated to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.
Irish-Medium Education (IME) was originally set up in Steelestown in response to the wishes of a number of parents who wanted education through Irish to be made available for their own children. It represented for all involved then, and to this day, a practical approach to developing our own language as well as an awareness of our own heritage in a positive and significant way - a feeling shared and cherished by language communities throughout the world. The drive towards globalisation has led to a greater desire in communities to nurture and celebrate that which is best in the richness and diversity of their own cultures. This is where Naíscoil Dhoire (IM pre-school) and Bunscoil Cholmcille (primary school) in Steelestown provide a wonderful opportunity for today's children, assisted by their parents and the schools' community - bilingual by 6 years of age!
An IME Unit was subsequently established in 1983 with the assistance of Bishop Edward Daly and the Department of Education under the management of CCMS in Steelestown P.S. A parent group, Cairde na Gaelscolaíochta, lent important assistance in these early years with transport and extra-curricular activities. The initial Principal, Mr. James Quinn, led it through its first tentative years and was ably succeeded by Mr. Joseph Martin who steered the Unit whilst it progressed towards its next stage of development. As the unit developed new members of staff and children benefited substantially from the good will and considerable experience of the Steelestown P.S. management and staff and, for its part, the Irish-medium unit brought a new dimension, skills, experience and language to the school as a whole. In 1993 the Unit separated from the host school and developed into its current status as Bunscoil Cholmcille and in 2002 a full-time pre-school, Naíscoil Dhoire, was established on site.
The school's success over the years is a significant testament to the dedication of the governors and hard work of the staff resulting in the school's excellent performance and reputation. The school's academic, creative and linguistic success have frequently been recognised by various external bodies and organisations over the last thirty years inclusive of being named the Ulster Irish-Medium Primary School of the year on two separate occasions.
The influence and contribution of Bunscoil Cholmcille to the broader development of IME is well known throughout Ireland. Many other people of public note have either visited or been associated with the school over the years inclusive of Irish Presidents, government Ministers, shadow cabinet members from the South and from Westminster as well as European Members of Parliament. Indeed the promotion of Irish-medium education has always been approached passionately by everyone associated with the school. Over the years both staff and governors have contributed on many levels to the promotion of IME, inclusive of the founding of other IM schools and pre-schools - North and South, the establishment of Irish-medium support bodies, the development of Irish-medium policies, the development of Irish medium schools' curricula, assessments, resources and support services - all to the benefit of Irish-medium education as a whole throughout Ulster and beyond.
This labour of love that is Naíscoil Dhoire and Bunscoil Cholmcille has been reciprocated and complimented by the considerable support of generations of parents who have always demonstrated a generosity of spirit, a deep loyalty to the school and a desire to support the school in all its endeavours; the current members of the school's Parent Teacher Association carry on this great network of support. One measure of the school's success is the confidence of past pupils in the school who continue to send their own children to the school whilst other past pupils make up half of the current staff and most of the remaining staff has been with the school since its early days!
The children present themselves as confident, happy, secure and hard-working young pupils and have consistently performed well in statutory assessments over the years. Whilst English is taught through English the rest of the whole N.I. curriculum is taught through the medium of Irish from the pre-school onwards. Pupils are also provided with a range of extra-curricular activities throughout the year with the assistance of staff as well as various local community groups and statutory bodies, notably Shantallow Community Residents' Association, Cumann Gaelach Chnoc na Rós, Derry City Council and Greater Shantallow Area Partnership. Many pupils sit their Irish GCSE and ‘A' level much earlier than normal and maintain a life-long appreciation of their own language and culture which develops positive cultural awareness towards others who may be different from themselves. Children continue to attend the school from all over the city, inclusive of the Waterside and travel arrangements are available throughout the city.
The next generation of children and parents can look forward to a warm welcome and you are invited to make enquiries, to visit the school and see it for yourself, to meet the children and staff, in Irish or in English, and perhaps give your child the wonderful opportunity to avail of the very best of bilingualism.
Places are limited and early application is advised. It is worth noting that knowledge of Irish is not required to send your child to either the pre-school or the primary school and, thus, children may enter at the Primary 1 stage as well as through the pre-school. You can contact the school at Tel. 7135 9648.