Patricia Connolly, a languages tutor with the SELB in the Banbridge area, is just one of many language tutors to speak out against the Education Minister’s decision to stop funding the primary languages school programme.
The move which will take place from March 31 will see more than 400 primary schools and over 40,000 children affected.
Tutors took their protest to the streets of Northern Ireland last week and in a statement condemned John O’Dowd’s decision to abruptly stop funding what they described as ‘a very cost effective programme’.
The statement continued: “The cost per child, per week, equates to a mere 75 pence. This penny pinching decision to axe this very successful and valuable programme is both absurd and disgraceful.
“Mr O’Dowd’s decision means he has deprived the young children of Northern Ireland of the opportunity to learn on an equal basis. He has also clearly undervalued the benefits of a second language in terms of employability and mobility in the future.”
The statement went on to express concerns that the decision may be more for political reasons than budgetary constraints.
“It appears that Mr O’Dowd wants to abolish the current languages programme covering Spanish, Polish and replace it with a new Irish only programme. The equality of opportunity, which should be afforded to all children to choose a modern language such as Spanish or Polish, has been removed for reasons other than financial.”
A petition signed by school principals, parents and political representatives has called for the future of the primary languages programme to be reconsidered.
“A failure to continue to fund the programme in its present format catering for Spanish, Polish and Irish would mean Northern Ireland will be the only country in Western Europe not teaching a foreign language in primary schools. This retrograde step cannot be allowed to happen if we are to be considered as a serious progressive country looking to move forward. A large number of other political representatives who are aware of the very recent developments are to raise the matter and table questions in the Assembly on this very serious issue.”