Schools respond to language programme cuts

File photo:  Pupils from Greenisland Primary enjoying European Day of Languages last year. INNT 38-506-SO
File photo: Pupils from Greenisland Primary enjoying European Day of Languages last year. INNT 38-506-SO

Several Carrick primary schools are to consider self-funding language tuition following cuts by the Department of Education.

The primary languages programme will be discontinued from the end of March as there is currently no further funding available, the department said.

We will have to use already stretched resources to keep providing [tuition] for our pupils

Gareth Hamilton

However, a number of local schools outlined hopes of continuing to provide their chosen language, Spanish, out of their own budget.

At Sunnylands Primary, pupils in P1 - P5 currently devote two and a half hours per week to the European language, said principal Gareth Hamilton.

“We only heard of the decision about two weeks ago. It’s disappointing that this valuable programme has been cut,” Mr Hamilton added.

“Pupils have benefitted greatly from learning the Spanish language and they’ve really enjoyed it; it’s an experience which sets them up for the future.

“We are going to be funding it ourselves, but we will have to use already stretched resources to keep providing this for our pupils.”

At nearby Central Primary, options are also being considered to continue the pupils’ tuition. “It will be up to the Board of Governors to make a decision as to whether funding could be allocated to that,” said principal Glenn Campbell.

An understanding of Spanish could be particularly useful for future employment prospects, according to Greenisland Primary School principal Liam McGuckin.

Lessons in the language are currently timetabled for all students at the Upper Station Road school.

“It gives pupils a leg up ahead of their contemporaries, and this is taking away their ability to compete,” Mr McGuckin said.

“The high standard of the Spanish language tuition at the school has been commented on both by parents and in inspection reports.”

However, there is a potential difficulty in funding continued tuition through the school’s own budget. “We are in an area of social deprivation so we don’t have the resources that some other schools have,” Mr McGuckin added. “It would cost about £2000 per year to continue the tuition. We will have to look increasing our school fund through contribution in order to pay for it.

“It’s a shame that this area is being cut when money is being put into language in other ways, such as the opening of schools which primarily speak the Irish language.”

In a statement, the Department of Education said it considered “building capacity among class teachers” to be the most sustainable approach to primary language provision.