Naíscoil na Seolta, East Belfast’s First Integrated Irish-Medium Nursery School

For the last few years, a bunch of dedicated people have been working hard to set up East Belfast’s first Irish-medium integrated nursery school.

And it’s nearly ready to open its doors.

Naíscoil means nursery school. Na Seolta means the sails, which is a reference to East Belfast’s long history of ship building. The Harland and Wolff crane also appears in the Naíscoil’s logo, showing its deep connection to this part of the city.

Naíscoil na Seolta is planning to open its doors in September 2021, for children of pre pre-school age (kids born between 2nd July 2018 and 1st July 2019, who will be starting primary one in 2023).

Plans for an integrated Irish-medium primary school in East Belfast are also underway.

It’s fair to say that East Belfast has been falling in love with the Irish language over recent years, with the popularity of adult language classes and other cultural events run by Turas. You might have seen Ivor Reid’s story in recent weeks, about overcoming stereotypical barriers associated with learning the Irish language. 

My own kids love going to Turas’ children’s Irish sessions, which are always packed. Now, Naíscoil na Seolta will be able to extend the opportunity of Irish-medium education to nursery age kids.

It’s difficult to say which is the most pioneering part of the project. The fact that it will be the only Irish-medium nursery education available in East Belfast. Or the fact that it will be the first integrated Irish-medium nursery in Northern Ireland. Families that enrol will be making history.

Linda Ervine, founder of Turas and also of the Naíscoil, thinks parents may choose to send their kids to Naíscoil na Seolta for a variety of reasons. Some will have an interest in, or love for, the Irish language. Some will be focussed on the well established benefits of a bilingual education for their children. Others will be drawn to the small class sizes, and the opportunity to be part of a close knit community where staff will know every child, parent and even grandparent by name.

Parents don’t need to be fluent in Irish, or even to speak it at all, for their kids to attend. In fact it’s a good way for parents to get to know the language themselves.

Naíscoil na Seolta is hosting an online information evening at 8pm on Thursday 25th March 2021. The guest speaker will be Catherine Pollock from Cultúrlann in Derry.

All prospective parents are invited to come along to hear about the benefits of bilingualism for their child, and find out about plans for the September 2021 opening. Contact [email protected] for a link to the oíche eolais, the open night.