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A Gaelscoil (Irish pronunciation: [ˈɡeːl̪ˠsˠkɛlʲ]; plural: Gaelscoileanna) is an Irish language-medium school in Ireland: the term refers especially to Irish-medium schools outside the Irish-speaking regions or Gaeltacht. Over 50,000 students attend Gaelscoileanna at primary and second-level on the island of Ireland.[1] Additionally, more than 13,000 students are receiving their primary and second level education through Irish in the Gaeltacht.[2] Gaelscoileanna and Irish-medium schools in the Gaeltacht are supported and represented by Gaeloideachas and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta or COGG in the Republic of Ireland and by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in Northern Ireland. The largest patron body of Gaelscoileanna in the Republic of Ireland is An Foras Pátrúnachta, although the vast majority of schools under their patronage are at primary level.

Sign for primary Gaelscoil in Newry, Northern Ireland
County Dublin has over 50 Irish language-medium schools attended by over 13,000 pupils.

Students in the Gaelscoileanna acquire the Irish language through language immersion, and study the standard curriculum through it. Gaelscoileanna, unlike English-medium schools, have the reputation of producing competent Irish speakers.[3] English-medium schools, in contrast, produce relatively few fluent Irish speakers, despite the Irish language being an obligatory subject in the Republic of Ireland in both primary and secondary school. This has been attributed in part to the lack of Irish-language immersion programs.[4]

Gaelscoileanna and Irish language-medium schools in the Gaeltacht are supported and represented by Gaeloideachas and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta or COGG in the Republic of Ireland and by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in Northern Ireland.

Gaelscoileanna have undergone a striking expansion over the last few decades, although there are now concerns that rules limiting the founding of new schools is affecting the establishment of new Irish-medium education in areas where there is a competition amongst educational patrons. Their success is due to effective (though limited) community support and an efficient administrative infrastructure. They are distinguished by being the product, not of state policy, but of a genuine community movement.

In 1972 there were only 11 such schools at primary level and five at secondary level in the Republic of Ireland. As of September 2023 there were 188 gaelscoileanna at primary level, attended by over 40,000 students, and 31 gaelcholáistí and 17 aonaid Ghaeilge (Irish language units) at secondary level, attended by over 12,000 students in non-Gaeltacht areas across Ireland.[2] 35 of these primary schools, two of the postprimary schools and four of the postprimary units operated are in Northern Ireland.[2] Additionally, some 4,000 children attend Irish-medium preschools or Naíonraí outside the Gaeltacht with around 1,000 children attending Naíonraí within the Gaeltacht.[citation needed] There is now at least one gaelscoil in every county in Ireland with over 50 in County Dublin; 30 in County Cork and 13 in County Antrim included.

Social status and function


Gaelscoileanna have acquired a reputation for providing excellent academic results at a moderate cost. They have been described as a system of "positive social selection" giving better than average access to tertiary education and the social and employment opportunities which follow. An analysis of "feeder" schools which send students on to tertiary level institutions shows that 22% of Irish-medium schools send all their students on to tertiary level, compared to 7% of English-medium schools.[5]

Supporters argue that the bilingualism resulting from early acquisition of another language is of general intellectual benefit and helps children to learn still other languages. Irish-language advocates of the immersion approach sometimes refer to studies showing that bilingual children have advantages over monoglot children in other subjects.[6]


Primary level Republic of Ireland Northern Ireland
Gaelscoil (primary) students 35,850 5,113
Gaelscoil (primary) schools 143 35
Total primary students 536,747 168,669
Total primary schools 3,137 827
Percentage Gaelscoil students 6% 2.1%
Percentage Gaelscoil schools 8.6% 4.4%

By province (primary level)

  • Leinster – 19,331 primary students attend 71 gaelscoileanna.[10]
  • Ulster – 6,801 primary students attend 45 gaelscoileanna.[10]
  • Munster – 11,332 primary students attend 44 gaelscoileanna.[10]
  • Connacht – 3,509 primary students attend 18 gaelscoileanna.[10]

Post-primary education through Irish


A secondary-level Gaelscoil located in a non-Gaeltacht area is commonly known as a Gaelcholáiste.[11] There are 31 Gaelcholáistí and 17 second-level Irish language units (aonaid Ghaeilge) on the island of Ireland, attended by over 12,000 students. Close to 4,000 further students receive their second level education through Irish in the Gaeltacht.[2]

Two new second-level gaelscoileanna opened in Ireland in 2014: Coláiste Ghlór na Mara in Balbriggan and Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh in Rathfarnham (both in County Dublin). Gaelcholáiste Charraig Uí Leighin opened in Carrigaline and Northern Ireland's second gaelcholáiste Gaelcholáiste Dhoire opened in Dungiven Castle in 2015. Gaelcholáiste Mhic Shuibhne opened in Knocknaheeney in 2019. Gaelcholáiste Mhaigh Nuad opened in Maynooth in September 2020.[12]

Gaelcholáistí are supported and represented on a practical day-to-day basis by Gaeloideachas (who also support Irish-medium schools in the Gaeltacht) and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta (whose name translates into English as "The Council for Gaeltacht and Gaelscoileanna Education") or COGG in the Republic of Ireland and by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in Northern Ireland.

In 2023 An Foras Pátrúnacha revealed that there is a demand for 7 new Gaelcholáistí in the Republic of Irealand[13] and in 2021 Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta revealed that there is a demand for 3 new Gaelcholáistí in Northern Ireland.[14]

List of Gaelcholáistí

Coláiste an Phiarsaigh

Strategy proposals


The function and future of Gaelscoileanna in the Republic of Ireland falls within the scope of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, published by the then Irish government in December 2010. This report emphasises the importance of offering all children in primary schools in Ireland the opportunity to experience partial immersion in the formative years of primary education. It calls for primary teachers to have additional immersion classes to improve their competence in the language. This would involve teaching some subjects such as Mathematics and Science in Irish.[44]

See also



  1. ^ "Statistics". Gaeloideachas. Archived from the original on 29 October 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "Gaeloideachas- statistics".
  3. ^ "Retrieved 27 June 2011". Gaelscoileanna.ie. 22 February 1999. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  4. ^ http://www.comhairle.org/uploads/publications/Immersion%20Education%20Policy%20SGIP.pdf [dead link]
  5. ^ Borooah, Vani K.; Dineen, Donal A.; Lynch, Nicola (2009). "Language and Occupational Status: Linguistic Elitism in the Irish Labour Market". The Economic and Social Review. 40. The Economic and Social Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, Winter, 2009: 446. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  6. ^ Bialystok and Hakuta (1994). In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-03281-8.
  7. ^ "School enrolments – school level data 2015/16 | DE". DE. Retrieved 22 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Statistics : Gaelscoileanna – Irish Medium Education". Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Key Statistics" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d "Oideachas Trí Mheán na Gaeilge 2015/2016" [Education Through the Irish Language 2015/2016] (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Teenagers trade personal stories: 'It's great to find you are not alone'". The Guardian. 8 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Gaelcholáiste Mhaigh Nuad- School History". Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  13. ^ "26 Gaelscoil, 5,800 dalta – gaelcholáiste ar bith - Tuairisc". Tuairisc. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  14. ^ "Cá háit a n-osclófar tuilleadh Gaelcholáistí i dTuaisceart Éireann sa todhchaí? – Near FM (2021)". YouTube. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  15. ^ "COLÁISTE AILIGH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  16. ^ "COLAISTE AN PHIARSAIGH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  17. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE MHUIRE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  18. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE AN PHIARSAIGH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  19. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE CHARRAIG UI LEIGHIN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  20. ^ "SCOIL CHAITRIONA". Department of Education (Ireland).
  21. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE CHEATHARLACH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  22. ^ "CENTRAL TECHNICAL INSTITUTE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  23. ^ "CTI Clonmel". cti-clonmel.ie.
  24. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE CHIARRAÍ". Department of Education (Ireland).
  25. ^ "COLÁISTE CHILLIAIN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  26. ^ "GAEL CHOLAISTE CHILL DARA". Department of Education (Ireland).
  27. ^ "COLÁISTE COIS LIFE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  28. ^ "COLÁISTE DE HÍDE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  29. ^ "GAA – Gaelcholáiste Dhoire coming of age". Derry Now. 30 November 2017.
  30. ^ "COLÁISTE EOIN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  31. ^ "Eitheas/Ethos". colaistefeirste.
  32. ^ "COLÁISTE GHLÓR NA MARA". Department of Education (Ireland).
  33. ^ "COLÁISTE ÍOSAGÁIN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  34. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE LUIMNIGH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  35. ^ "New Knocknaheeny school opening 'an historic event for education'". University College Cork. 5 September 2019.
  36. ^ "COLÁISTE MHUIRE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  37. ^ "COLÁISTE NA COIRIBE". Department of Education (Ireland).
  38. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE NA MARA". Department of Education (Ireland).
  39. ^ "COLÁISTE RAITHÍN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  40. ^ "GAELCHOLÁISTE REACHRANN". Department of Education (Ireland).
  41. ^ "COLAISTE AN EACHRÉIDH". Department of Education (Ireland).
  42. ^ "School Detail". Department of Education.
  43. ^ "Coláiste na Tulchann". colaistenatulchann.ie. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  44. ^ "20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 (English Version)" (PDF). Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2012.