THE Principal of Belfast's only Irish medium secondary school has hit out at the Department of Education for its failure to address the growth in the numbers of pupils in Irish medium education.
Principal of Coláiste Feirste, Mícheál Mac Giolla Ghunna was speaking as the school opened up eight new mobile classrooms to create a dedicated Year 8 provision. This September, the Falls Road school accepted 185 new pupils in to Year 8, as the school continues to grow at a rapid rate.
"In the absence of another Irish medium post-primary school in Belfast, Coláiste Feirste has been managing the consequences of this growth in numbers for several years," he said.
"There has been no progress in the Department of Education finding a suitable site for a second Irish medium post-primary school in North Belfast.
"We are working with the Department to resolve accommodation and other issues such as teacher supply, curriculum resourcing and equitable access to qualifications.
"Unfortunately, due to the lack of of an overarching strategy to facilitate the rapid growth of Irish medium education, especially at post-primary phase, we are left managing our way out of crisis situations every year."
Mícheál says the new mobile classrooms will help the school deliver a smooth transition to post-primary for pupils.
"The Year 8s are now moving into this new provision which will be dedicated to their development and welfare, a peaceful and relaxing environment where they can grow and learn at their own pace and successfully begin their post-primary education," he added.
"These will be kept separate from the hustle and bustle of the main school and will have a gentler introduction to post-primary education, enabling them to build their skills and confidence in preparation for Year 8.
"This is an innovative approach – another step in the development of Coláiste Feirste and Gaeilge education in Belfast.
"Due to the lack of strategy and planning from the Department of Education, it falls to Coláiste Feirste to develop a sector, to solve every problem, every challenge.
"Therefore, we will overcome all challenges as usual – innovatively and imaginatively – and we will create a first-class development environment for the 185 young Gaels.
"There will be no lack of learning, no lack of care, passion and dedication. Coláiste Feirste is rich in these characteristics."