IRISH language classes have returned to An Droichead community centre on Cooke Street amidst stringent health and safety measures.
The centre, which runs childcare, arts and Irish language programmes, had faced a setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During lockdown it had converted its Irish language classes to remote learning, but lost around 50 per cent of its learners who “did not feel confident enough to make the switch online”.
After successfully delivering a 10-week programme to around 100 students during lockdown, An Droichead had experienced an increasing demand for face-to-face classes.
Reflecting on recent challenges, Fionnuala Nic Thom, Development Officer at An Droichead, said: “As a recognised centre for examinations, we have two exam classes – GCSE, AS and A2 Irish, and like many other teachers, ours were tasked to grade and rank students. This was particularly difficult for our teachers as they spend a limited amount of time with our students at night classes in comparison to school students with their teachers.
“As we continued our learning post-lockdown, we were able to gather evidence and award a grade based on the true ability of our students. We were then devastated by some of the changes that CCEA made to grades and when asked for an explanation of the changes they were unable to give any and recommended that we appeal. We appealed all changes made by CCEA and their flawed algorithm and were delighted when they overturned their decision of changed grades, which we believe was the fair thing to do and give students the grades that they had worked for and earned.”
With lockdown restrictions easing during the summer months, and with Covid safety measures in place, An Droichead organised a range of summer activities for its learners including a trip to the Donegal Gaeltacht.
“The weekend included Irish classes, historical tours, a socially distanced solo step class and music concert. We had a great weekend and participants expressed gratitude for providing a positive social experience in such uncertain times,” Fionnuala enthused.
“When summer ended and people were keen to get back to learning, we held a series of seminars on frequently asked questions at Irish classes. The seminars were delivered via Zoom. We pitched the seminars at three different levels – Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced – to ensure that there was something for everyone. The seminars were free of charge and were a huge success with a total of 70 participants overall. As a result we have decided to run a second series of seminars at Halloween.
“Our Irish language classes have resumed. Our exam classes have returned to the An Droichead centre with a dedicated Health and Safety policy and a stringent sanitisation process in affect. All other classes are delivered via Zoom and we have a wide range of classes available. We have had hundreds of enquiries and our classes are growing every day.
“The world has changed and we have had to adapt to those changes. Remote learning has allowed us to attract learners from all over the country and from other countries.”
Fionnuala said that she is still looking forward to a time when An Droichead can open their doors to all of their learners and allow them to sit face to face with their tutors in their classrooms.
“But when that time comes we will continue to offer online classes to students. These trying times in which we are living has unlocked potential and allowed us to reach many more people and helped our community to grow.”
• Anyone interested in joining an Irish class or finding out more about the work that An Droichead does they can visit www.androichead.com or contact Fionnuala on 028 9028 8818.