Mayo schools get green light for pilot scheme to learn European languages

September 11, 2021

Mayo schools get green light for pilot scheme to learn European languages

SOME 500 primary schools throughout Ireland have received confirmation of their participation in the Say ‘Yes’ to Languages Primary School Language Sampler Module.

A huge number of applications were logged and, as a result, over 500 schools will be involved during the 2021/22 school term. Due to the high level of demand, the scheme will be rolled out across the three terms with the first modules starting in November in over 150 primary schools across the country.

For one local Mayo language school, it is a much-needed boost for language learning for children and a positive move in the right direction for schools.

Douglas Whittaker, owner of Westport Language School, teaches extracurricular French and Spanish to local children in Westport. He says: “In recent weeks languages have been in the news more than ever and with the European Day of Languages on September 26, this positive news couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The Taoiseach has acknowledged the importance of learning European languages and wants them to be introduced at primary school level. This pilot scheme has enabled hundreds of schools to apply for funding and for tutors – such as myself – to deliver good quality classes during their school weekly timetable. In the past, due to budget constraints, plus lack of specialist language teachers, classes were not able to be offered.

“I am proud to have been approached by local schools St. Colmcille’s National School, Brackloon National School, St. Brendan’s National School and Carrakennedy National School who have all been given the ‘green light’ and elated that they wish Westport Language School to deliver their language lessons.”

The Languages Connect Sampler Module will facilitate participating schools to introduce their pupils to a Modern Foreign Language of their choice or Irish Sign Language (ISL). The modules will take place over a six-week period for up to one hour a week, within the normal timetable, and is targeted at third to sixth class pupils.

Commented Kevin Munnelly, headteacher at St. Colmcille’s NS in Westport: “We are thrilled to have been selected for the pilot funding and delighted to be able to add French or Spanish classes to our weekly schedule.”

Douglas’s classes operate in and around the Westport area, for children aged 5 to 15 years, and are built on the belief that language learning is for everyone.

“In today’s world never has it been more valuable to speak a foreign language, yet it is considered a challenging school subject. At Westport Language School, we aim to dispel the misconceptions and inspire a passion for languages.

“Languages are fun, but only when children feel confident and enjoy learning,” says Douglas.

“In my language classes, I make it a priority for my students to learn not only the language with a focus on listening and speaking but, also about the country and its culture showing them how diverse and wonderful the world is.”

Westport Language School offers carefully personalised primary and secondary tuition for all abilities. Particularly valuable for secondary school students who are feeling out of their depth with language learning, the nurturing and professional nature of the classes ensure rapid progress and motivated learners.

Added Douglas: “I first developed my love of languages at the age of 21 when, as a student, I went to work for Marks and Spencer in Paris and from that moment I became hooked but not only on the language but also on the culture and diversity which these fascinating countries bring. It’s the same reason so many visitors come to Ireland…the Irish culture is so rich.

“The experience I had when I went to work and travel around France and South American for 10 years is what I want to bring to Westport Language School. This diverse culture of the French and Spanish speaking world, geography, food, music, literature, sports, all these elements add richness and get kids hooked.

“It’s not just a language it’s a whole fascinating world of experience.”

Brendan Tunney, principal at Brackloon National School, expressed his excitement, adding: “Douglas at Westport Language School was our ‘go to’ tutor and we are excited for him to deliver classes from November.”

Article originally appeared in the Connaught Telegraph