First Students Begin New Irish Sign Language Primary Teaching Pathway

Four students who communicate through Irish Sign language (ISL) have registered at Dublin City University to become Ireland’s first Deaf primary school teachers using Irish Sign Language.

Provided by DCU’s Institute of Education, four places were made available on the Bachelor of Education programme, which enables Deaf and hard of hearing people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching for the first time. The students Kevin Dudley (Dublin), Aimee Ennis McLoughlin ( Dublin), Sinéad Leahy (Cork) and Aisling O’Halloran (Galway) have been provided with scholarships by Folens Publishers and the Catholic Institute for Deaf People and will begin the full-time four-year undergraduate course on 23rd September.

Up until now, there has been no entry route to primary teacher education for a person who communicates through Irish Sign Language.

This is the first pathway of this nature in the history of the state. While entry to the course is exclusively for members of the Deaf community who wish to become primary school teachers working in the deaf education sector, course modules will be delivered along with hearing peers in the B.Ed programme.

Modules specific to deaf education will be delivered separately and some deaf education-specific modules will be made available as electives to hearing student-teachers.

The programme will also include a 30-week school placement.

Executive Dean of DCU’s Institute of Education Dr Anne Looney said:

“Today is a historic day as we welcome the very first intake of students to the Irish Sign Language pathway as part of the Bachelor of Education.

This new pathway is hugely significant for people who are users of Irish Sign Language providing them with the opportunity to become teachers and in turn marking an important step in ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom. It is a ground-breaking development for all concerned and particularly for Deaf children in primary school who will have teachers who are fluent ISL users.

I want to congratulate our new incoming students and wish them the very best as they start university life.”

Keith Adams, CEO, Catholic Institute for Deaf People (CIDP) said:

“CIDP considers education as one of the core elements of our service delivery, supporting the creation of better opportunities for Deaf children through quality access to education.

Thanks to a bequest from the late Esther Foy, we are delighted to be in a position to support this groundbreaking pilot. We look forward to seeing these first students qualify and become the teachers of the future to Deaf & Hard of Hearing children, thus ensuring these children have the best opportunities to access college and employment in the future.”

Andrew Miller, CEO of Folens Publishers said:

“Folens Publishers through its Giving Programme are delighted to be part of this exciting initiative, which enables students to fulfil their ambitions to become teachers.

The new B. Ed in Irish Sign Language will allow these students to use their own personal experience of being Deaf or hard of hearing to teach future generations of children.Thus, giving them as inclusive an experience in school as possible.”

The B Ed (Irish Sign Language) was officially launched by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor in January 2019.

Speaking at today’s event student Kevin Dudley said:

“I feel like a huge door has opened for me, and now I’m here to change deaf childrens’ futures for the better.”

The new pathway into B. Ed is being introduced on a pilot basis from this September, with subsequent intakes of students scheduled from 2023 onwards.

Pictured Aisling O’Halloran (Galway), Kevin Dudley (Dublin), Sinéad Leahy (Cork), Aimee Ennis McLoughlin (Dublin)

*This initiative is supported by Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) funding from the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills