Languages to be introduced to primary schools on pilot basis

Pupils in more than 100 schools to learn foreign languages from third class

Schools will be supported by Post-Primary Languages Ireland in providing a six-week sampler module across a range of additional languages. File photograph: Getty

The teaching of foreign languages is to be introduced to primary schools from third class onwards on a pilot basis.

The “language sampler module” will be targeted at third- to sixth-class pupils in more than 100 primary and special schools.

Minister for Education Norma Foley has invited expressions of interest from schools who may choose a foreign language or Irish sign language.

Schools will be supported by Post-Primary Languages Ireland in providing a six-week sampler module across a range of additional languages.


This module will provide one hour per week for teaching foreign languages within the normal school timetable and will be open to schools to participate on a voluntary basis. About €200,000 is being provided to support the initiative.

A previous drive to teach foreign languages was axed as part of a cost-cutting effort in 2012. That initiative – set up in 1998 by the then minister for education Micheál Martin – introduced languages such as Italian, Spanish, German and French in fifth and sixth class.

Under the new pilot, schools will have the autonomy to determine the language they wish to introduce and to secure a language tutor, such as a language teacher/language assistant from a secondary school or a member of the community who is fluent in the target language.

All language tutors will work under the guidance of the class teacher and must comply with Garda vetting and other child-protection requirements.

“This exciting new initiative will provide pupils with opportunities to expand their experience with languages and also give them confidence in engaging with new languages,” Ms Foley said.

“The sampler module will also inform future developments in the area of language acquisition and development of the primary curriculum framework. I would encourage primary and special schools to explore this opportunity to take part in this new module.”

Online application

Interested schools are being asked to complete an application form online ( no later than June 23rd.

Participation will be confirmed with schools by August 27th.

The module will take place over a six-week period towards the end of the first term of the 2021-2022 school year.

Post-Primary Languages Ireland will develop classroom content in consultation with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the National Council for Special Education.

A short online training programme for the language tutors identified by each school. This will also be available to the teachers in the participating schools, should they wish to access it.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent