Education - Irish Medium - Primary - PGCE

St. Mary's University College Belfast

Education - Irish Medium - Primary - PGCE

Irish-Medium Primary PGCE

The Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a one-year, full-time course leading to full recognition as a teacher by the Department of Education.

The Primary PGCE is taught substantially through the medium of Irish and is intended particularly for graduates who wish to teach in Irish-medium primary schools. The course content is based on the requirements of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, and students have the opportunity to gain specialist insights into educational issues relevant to immersion education.

This M-Level programme is thirty-six weeks in duration, of which eighteen weeks are spent in a variety of classroom settings where competences in professional practice are developed. Students will spend two blocks of School Experience in an Irish-medium school and one block in an English-medium school. Students will also have an opportunity to select practical experience in a special school or in a nursery. Modules have been designed to allow students to integrate the knowledge gained from clinical practice and from College-based study. It is recommended that applicants applying for this course have a high level of competence in oral and written Irish.

The PGCE Primary programme offered at St Mary's is bilingual by design and focuses on the specialist competences required to teach in an Irish-medium immersion classroom, as well as on the general skills, knowledge and attitudes that are common requirements for all effective teachers.

The distinctive environment of St Mary's is caring and collegial. We aim to nurture and develop the skills required to deliver an inspirational pedagogy in Irish-medium classrooms, and staff aim to model this approach in their lectures and workshops. Active learning is complemented by extensive reading and critical reflection. PGCE students will meet and engage with other Irish-medium students from the BEd programme. They will become familiar with current research in education and engage with active researchers in the field of immersion education. They will enjoy the phased experience of three blocks of clinical practice in a range of school environments, including Irish-medium and English-medium.

Students will have the opportunity to engage with the Áisaonad in St Mary's. This is a specialist organisation which produces learning and teaching resources for the Irish-medium sector. The Áisaonad is committed to sharing best practice on the use of its resources.

The PGCE programme can provide a professional route into a range of careers, and alumni are found in educational bodies, Irish-language media, support services, academia and educational psychology. However, the majority of graduates choose to teach in Irish-medium schools, and their love of teaching in the Irish-medium classroom motivates them to stay on track as lifelong learners. A consistently high employability rate is characteristic of this programme.

St Mary's also works in partnership with Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University to provide an Irish-Medium dimension to students' PGCE Post-Primary experience. The St Mary's course focuses on language proficiency of students and builds competences needed to teach in Irish-Medium Post-Primary settings.

Whatever your motivation, we hope that the information in this brochure will inspire the next stage of your educational journey. We would be delighted to share the St Mary's experience of community and excellence with you in the year ahead.

Programme Outline
The Irish-medium PGCE is a one-year full-time course of professional training for university graduates leading to the award of the Postgraduate Certificate in Education of the Queen's University, Belfast. In addition to this professional qualification, successful students will be awarded the Teastas san Oideachas Dátheangach (Certificate in Bi-lingual Education).

This programme is primary designated (5-11 age range), accredited by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) and is recognised by the Department of Education (NI) as an initial qualification to teach in all types of schools. Students who successfully complete the programme may apply for registration to the GTCNI.

Graduates may also apply for registration to the Teaching Council in the Republic of Ireland. Please note that conditions may apply. Registration is a mark of professional recognition as a teacher. Further information about the registration processes will be made available during the PGCE year or may be accessed directly from the websites:

Subjects taught

Programme Structure and Content
The programme runs from September until June and is thirty-six weeks in duration. Eighteen weeks will be spent in a variety of classroom settings where competences in professional practice are developed. The College will arrange all school placements. They will be in both English-medium and Irish-medium schools. A Gaeltacht experience is a highly valued dimension of the PGCE programme. Students are encouraged to participate in Gaeltacht courses in order to enhance their language competence.

The programme will focus on all three phases of primary education: Foundation Stage, Key Stage One and Key Stage Two. The course is structured in three modules, two of which are at M-Level. Modules have been designed to allow students to integrate knowledge gained from College-based study and from clinical practice. Successful completion of the PGCE (IME) currently entitles graduates to 30 credit points within the College M-Level programme.

Religious Education
Applicants will also have the option of studying the one-year Religious Education Programme required for teaching certification in Catholic primary schools.

Entry requirements

• On admission applicants must possess an honours degree (with classification 2.2 or above) or equivalent from a recognised university.

• Applicants are also required to hold passes (Grade C or above at GCSE) in English Language, Mathematics and Science (or an equivalent qualification) prior to the commencement of the course. Please note that the Essential Skills qualification is not deemed equivalent to Grade C.

• For applicants from the Republic of Ireland, the equivalent qualification for English and Mathematics is Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level Grade O4 or above. For Science, the minimum requirement is Junior Certificate at Higher Level, Grade C or above.

• Applicants must have a high level of competence in Irish, both written and oral, commensurate with competence to teach the primary school curriculum.

All applicants who meet the minimum requirements will normally be invited for interview and asked to complete a writing task. These are designed to assess an applicant's oral and written competency and suitability for the PGCE programme. It should be noted that possession of the educational requirements does not guarantee admission to the course.

Application dates

The closing date for applications is Friday, 25th February 2022.


1 year full-time


Tuition Fees

All full-time and part-time students will be charged tuition fees. This includes PGCE students. For students who are Northern Ireland domiciled, these are currently £4,160 per year and are normally subject to an annual inflationary uplift. A student will be liable for the full tuition fee at the point of enrolment and registration. This includes a non-refundable element of 25% of the calculated tuition fee.

Tuition Fee Loan
Students may defer their fees by applying for a Tuition Fee Loan, currently up to a maximum of £4,160, by paying the full fee directly to the College or by a combination of taking out a fee loan for part of the fees and paying the rest directly to the College.

A single application form PN1 is used in applying for a fee loan, for loans for living costs and maintenance grants and for the St Mary's College Bursary. Students can apply online or download an application form via the Student Finance Northern Ireland website

Once applications have been assessed, the local branch of Student Finance NI will send the student a Student Notification which will include details of the amount of the fee loan the student has requested.

Payment Options
Students who do not avail of the fee loan can pay their fees in one of two ways:

• Direct Debit – Students can complete a direct debit authorisation which spreads the fee over six months from December to May.

• Cash or Cheques – Students who do not complete a direct debit authorisation will receive one invoice in November for the full amount, which will be payable within thirty days.

EU Students
Non-UK EU Students, including students from the Republic of Ireland, can defer their fees by applying for a fee loan, currently up to a maximum of £4,160.

The application is essentially the same as the system for applying for fee loans and other support. EU students may also be eligible for a College Bursary. This will be dependent on the level of their household income. EU students should contact the Student Loan Company EU team by telephoning 0141 243 3570 in Darlington for advice. For maintenance support EU students should contact their local county council.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Postgraduate Certificate at UK Level 7

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

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    Course provider