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09th Feb 2024

Oireachtas Committee call to remove Irish exemptions for Dyslexic students

Anna Martin

irish exemption

An Oireachtas Committee has called for the end of Irish exemptions

In an 84-page report, published by the joint committee on the Irish language and Gaeltacht, the committee has called for a new approach to second-language learning for students.

It also detailed how students experiencing difficulties with the language should be provided with extra support before an exemption is granted.

Speaking about the report, committee chairman Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said: “It is clear to the joint committee that the current system of exemptions is not fit for purpose, and is also harming schoolchildren and the education system in Ireland as a whole.”

The committee stated that exemptions should only be granted for a small number of individuals, in particular pupils with serious learning difficulties or immigrant students who face significant challenges.

Irish exemptions
Credit: Getty

In response to the report the CEO of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland Rosie Bissett issued a statement, branding the proposal “concerning”.

It read: “We are dismayed by the recommendations to abolish or drastically curtail access to the Exemption from Irish for children and young people who are dyslexic. 

“As a reasonable accommodation that is often transformative for dyslexic children and young people, it is perplexing that the committee have suggested this element of choice with regards to their education be removed.

“It demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about the needs of dyslexic students, and also a lack of awareness of the legal requirements to make reasonable adjustments to meet their needs.”

Irish exemptions
Credit: Getty

While the association agreed that a new approach is needed when it comes to teaching Irish, they claimed that the approach detailed in the report was not adequate.

The statement concluded: “In summary, the needs of the 10% of the Irish population who have dyslexia do not seem to meaningfully feature in the thinking of the Committee to the degree that we would be satisfied with.

“It seems that other ideological positions are prioritised ahead of the needs of those with recognised disabilities and neuro-divergent presentations and their right to reasonable accommodations. We would have expected better in 2024.”

Yet it’s not just the Dyslexia Association of Ireland that is upset about this report, parents of children with learning difficulties have been voicing their concerns.

Irish exemptions
Credit: Getty

“My daughter has severe #dyslexia and the Irish exemption gives her the time in school for the essential additional support she needs. This is a retrograde recommendation from the Oireachtas Committee. I would hope this recommendation is not implemented,” penned one.

Another added: “This shows little understanding and regard for the realities of an overcrowded text-heavy curriculum that penalises dyslexic students. More of the same mainstreaming with *supports* nonsense that will deepen inequalities.”