My Department committed to continuing to support services wishing to operate through the medium of Irish and I am conscious of the value of supporting the provision of services in the Irish language to children at an early age. I am also aware of the role pre-schools can play in promoting Irish as a living language. In this regard my Department has collaborated with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in agreeing a comprehensive set of actions under the 5 Year Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2022.
These actions are in support of the overarching 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, and are designed to affirm the importance that early learning and care settings have in encouraging the development and revitalisation of the Irish language.
The aim of these actions is to build on the existing measures, supports and partnerships in place in the area of Irish-medium early learning and care, and to further improve these supports and services.
Furthermore, First 5, the recently published ten year Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families contains two actions specifically related to the provision of Irish language supports to the early learning and care sector, which are to:
- Introduce measures to ensure that children in Gaeltacht areas have access to Irish-medium ECL provision, and
- Develop mechanisms to provide Irish Language supports to ELC provision where there are high proportions of children who are learning through the medium of Irish.
Much is currently being done in my Department to ensure improved communication with Irish-speaking childcare services. For example, in respect of the forthcoming National Childcare Scheme, the website and parent application will be available in Irish. Irish-speaking support staff will be available to answer parental queries, and communications in relation to the Scheme will also be available in Irish.
Training and materials for the Access and Inclusion Model that helps children with a disability to participate in the ECCE scheme are available through Irish. Inspections operated by Tusla and the Department of Education are available through Irish, as are mentoring services from Better Start.