England’s biggest university for training PE teachers will add around 50 Gaelic football teachers to British secondary schools next year.
It emerged this week that the University of Bedfordshire has agreed to work with the GAA in training its students to become qualified teachers of football and hurling.
The plans, which will be enacted in January, could bring Irish sports to thousands of children around Britain.
“This is a really encouraging sign that Irish sports will stay alive in Britain,” said Ciara O’Brien, the GAA’s Community Development Administrator for Hertfordshire. “These projects are absolutely essential to the sustainability of the sports.”
She added: “It will also help us to take Gaelic Games to schools that have never even played them before. That means that we will be able to teach second and third generation Irish people about their culture and spread that culture to those who are not Irish.”
Ian Roberts, a senior member of the University of Bedfordshire’s physical education faculty, revealed the plans to The Irish Post.
He said: “Having trained PE teachers for over 100 years, the university is always trying to stay ahead of the game. Gaelic sports are highly innovative, so we are excited to start training our students in teaching them.”
“We hope to train around 50 this year alone,” he added. The announcement follows last year’s successful pilot scheme, co-ordinated by Paul Sammon, son of All-Ireland winner and former Galway manager Liam Sammon.
Paul, a senior lecturer in physical education at Bedfordshire University, will also be involved in plans to work with the GAA in the local St. Gregory’s Middle School.
Tara Boyle, who runs a Gaelic football club at Blessed George Napier Catholic School in Banbury, hopes that when the new teachers graduate, they will help schools like hers to play more matches.
“The problem is that we are very isolated here,” she said. “At the moment we only play a few matches a year when we go to Ireland, so it would be a hugely positive development if there were more teachers of Gaelic Games in our school and in the schools near us.”