A language plan aimed at preserving and enriching the level of Irish among students at schools in the Gaeltacht is being launched.

From today, schools in the Gaeltacht can apply for special status from the Department of Education that will allow them to increase the educational challenges for fluent Irish speakers.

The move will see children become totally immersed in the language for the first two years of their education.

English will only be taught after the initial two years.

It is the first step of a Government policy on Gaeltacht education.

Gaeltacht schools will be classified as those where every subject and activity takes place through Irish, and will be eligible for additional teachers and extra resources.

It is hoped the plan will be fully implemented by 2022, at a cost of around €1m a year.

In addition to this, it has been announced today that two new posts are to be created in NUI Galway to cater for the increased demand for second level teachers who can teach in Irish.