Exemption from studying Irish
What is an exemption from studying Irish?
Irish is one of the core subjects in the school curriculum in Ireland.
You can apply for an exemption from studying Irish in primary and secondary school. If you get an exemption, you do not have to study Irish.
You cannot get an exemption from Irish in a school where Irish is the main language of instruction.
To get an exemption from studying Irish at school, you must meet certain criteria – see ‘Who can apply for an exemption from studying Irish’ below.
Exemptions from Irish 2022-2023
If you want to apply for an exemption from studying Irish in school, you must meet the criteria set out in the Department of Education’s Circular 54/2022 (for primary schools) and Circular 55/2022 (for post-primary schools).
For more information on the criteria for getting an exemption from Irish - see 'Who can apply for an exemption from studying Irish’ below.
Exemptions given before 2022
An exemption from the study of Irish can only be made under the rules outlined in the Circular in place at the time of application. You can find more information about the rules governing the exemption from Irish before September 2022 from the Department of Education.
Applications processed up to 31 August 2022 can be decided on under the rules of the new circulars or previous circulars, depending on what best suits the student.
Irish language requirements for third-level courses
If entry to a third-level course requires a student to have a certain mark in Irish at the Leaving Certificate examination, students who have been exempted from the study of Irish may also be exempted from this requirement. This is a matter for each individual college. If you are applying for a third-level course through the Central Applications Office (CAO), you should send a copy of the exemption certificate with your CAO application form.
If you didn’t get an exemption from Irish in school under the rules set by the Department of Education, you can still apply to the third-level institute for an exemption from Irish in their entry level requirements. The third-level institute will decide on your application.
The college may also ask you to complete an exemption application form and to submit supporting documentation. You should check with the individual college for details on how to apply for an exemption.
Who can apply for an exemption from studying Irish?
A parent or guardian can apply for their child to be exempt from the study of Irish, if they think their child meets the criteria. The child must be enrolled in an English-medium mainstream school.
Your child will only be considered for exemption from studying Irish in exceptional circumstances.
The decision to exempt a student is made by the principal of the school following discussion with a student’s parents or guardians, the class teacher, special education teachers and the student themselves.
If an exemption is granted, parents and students have the option not to use the exemption, but do not lose the right to use it in the future.
Students who can get an exemption from the study of Irish include:
- Students who are enrolling after completing a full course of primary education outside the State, and who did not have the opportunity to study Irish
- Students aged 12 or over whose education was received outside the State for at least 3 consecutive years, and they did not have the opportunity to study Irish
- Children of foreign diplomatic or consular representatives in Ireland (primary schools only)
Students with literacy difficulties
Students who have at least reached second class and meet all of the following conditions can also get an exemption:
- Students who have significant literacy difficulty that persists after having access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy over time. This should be documented in a Student Support Plan.
- Students with a standardised score at or below the 10th percentile in word reading, reading comprehension or spelling.
Students with multiple and persistent needs
Students who have at least reached second class and meet all of the following conditions can get an exemption:
- Have a high level of significant, multiple and persistent needs that affect their learning and participation in school life
- Whose school has substantial written evidence that the needs persist despite a Student Support Plan which has been implemented for at least 2 years
- Students must have been given every reasonable opportunity to learn Irish in mainstream classes
- The principal is satisfied that giving an exemption is in the best interests of the student
What are multiple and persistent needs?
Multiple and persistent needs are enduring and severe in nature and significantly impact the student's daily functioning at school.
Exemption for special schools and special classes in mainstream schools
The following students may be considered exempt and do not need to apply for a certificate of exemption:
- Students in special schools and in special classes in mainstream schools
- Students who have previously enrolled in a special school or class
- Students who are eligible and have been recommended to enrol in a special school or class.
School authorities can make decisions about the Irish language learning needs of students who are in special classes. However, schools are expected to give students opportunities to take part in Irish language and cultural activities as much as possible.
You can read more about the exemption from Irish in the Department of Education’s FAQ for parents.
How to apply for an exemption from studying Irish
You apply to the school principal for an exemption from studing Irish. An applicaiton form is available on gov.ie
You should include the reasons why you are applying for the exemption. Children will only be considered for exemptions who meet the criteria set out in the Department of Education circulars on exemption from the study of Irish - see above.
You must attach documentary evidence of the student's age, and previous schooling if it is relevant to the reason for the exemption being sought.
The school must confirm the outcome of your application, in writing, within 21 working days of getting your application.
You will be issued a certificate of exemption signed by the school principal if an exemption is granted.
Evidence of a disability
Since September 2019, psychological assessments and cognitive ability (IQ) scores are no longer needed when applying for exemption from the study of Irish.
If the exemption is sought on the grounds of a literacy difficulty, you must present with significant and persistent learning difficulties despite having had access to a differentiated approach to language and literacy learning over time. The school also must have evidence of the student having a standardised score at or below the 10th percentile in at least one literacy attainment test in either word reading, reading comprehension or spelling.
You can read more about standardised test instruments in the Department of Education’s Guidance on the selection of discrete tests of literacy attainment in English (pdf).
Student Support Plan
The school must keep documentary evidence for students with special educational need in the Student Support Plan. The plan should include:
- Regular reviews of learning needs as part of an ongoing cycle of assessment
- Intervention and review including test scores in word reading, reading comprehension, spelling or other scores of language or literacy
How to appeal a decision
If you do not agree with the decision to refuse an exemption for your child, you can appeal the school’s decision to the Irish Exemptions Appeal Committee (IEAC) using the official appeals form. You must appeal within 30 days from the date you are notified in writing of the school’s decision.
The Committee will consider the grounds given for the refusal using the Department’s criteria for exemption and any supporting documentation available to the school at the time of the decision.
You can get more information and an Irish exemption appeal form to appeal the decision on gov.ie
Where to apply
You should apply in writing to the school principal for your child to be exempted. You can get application forms for an exemption from the study of Irish
Further information is available on gov.ie