Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland

Irish language to be taught through PE classes

20 June 2019 (Irish Examiner)

Irish will be taught through PE classes in a bid to improve school children’s confidence in learning and speaking the language.

The three-year project encourages primary and post-primary students to adopt the Irish language more naturally outside the classroom when talking and playing.

The aim of the PE as Gaeilge project is to improve school children’s competence, disposition and confidence when learning the language.

It will also support teachers to implement a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach to language learning.

Read more...

Belfast school has no language pupils at GCSE or A-level as interest slides across Northern Ireland

21 May 2019 (Belfast Telegraph)

A north Belfast school has revealed that it currently has no students studying languages at A-level or GCSE.

It comes as a new report published today shows that the number of pupils learning a modern language here continues to plummet.

The British Council's first Language Trends Northern Ireland report surveyed over 300 primary and post-primary schools.

It found that Spanish is now the language most frequently taught in local schools, followed by French and Irish.

In the eight-year period from 2010, GCSE entries in Northern Ireland dropped by 19% with significant falls in both French (41%) and German (18%), while Spanish rose by 16%.

The results were similar at A-level with the number of students taking French declining by 40% while German fell by 29%.

A number of primary and post-primary schools are now offering more diverse languages such as Mandarin and Arabic, which are recognised as crucial to the UK's long-term competitiveness, especially as the country plans to leave the EU.

Many respondents said they believed languages were no longer valued here and the rest of the UK.

Other barriers cited for the decline included the perceived level of difficulty of languages at GCSE and A-level.

Read more...

Policy Briefing – Modern Languages Educational Policy in the UK

17 January 2019 (AHRC)

The AHRC Modern Languages Leadership Fellow (Janice Carruthers) and the PI of the OWRI MEITS project (Wendy Ayres-Bennett) have published a Policy Briefing on Modern Languages Educational Policy in the UK.

It sets out the key policy issues across the four jurisdictions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and makes a series of recommendations for government at both primary and secondary levels.

Read more...

17 September, 2018 - Minister Bruton Launches Campaign to Encourage Learning of Foreign Languages & Announces Funding for School Exchanges

17 September 2018 (Department of Education and Skills (Ireland))

(Applies to Ireland) The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D. today (17th September 2018) launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of foreign languages and announced new funding for teacher upskilling and school language exchanges.  

The campaign is aimed at school principals, teachers, guidance counsellors, parents, students and higher level institutions. Embassies, cultural services and bodies such as IBEC and Enterprise Ireland (EI) are also involved in supporting the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of learning foreign languages.  The campaign will be supported by a new website (www.languagesconnect.ie) which will act as a one stop shop for schools, parents and students on language learning. 

Read more...

Lithuanian and Korean to be taught in Irish schools

10 September 2018 (Irish Times)

Lithuanian and Korean will be taught from this week as part of a drive to diversify the number of languages on the curriculum in Irish schools.

Lithuanian will be a short course for junior cycle in schools in Dublin and Monaghan where there is the highest concentration of the country’s natives in Ireland.

According to the last census in 2016, 36,683 Lithuanians live in Ireland. However, the Lithuanian embassy estimates the real figure is twice that if the number of children of immigrants are taken into account.

The course is for a minimum of 100 hours over two years. Some 43 applicants were received from teachers of the language.

The introduction of Lithuanian into Irish school is part of the foreign languages strategy which identifies the need to support immigrant communities to maintain their own languages.

It was introduced last year as part of a 10-year strategy to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages.

The Korean language, the 17th most spoken language in the world, is being introduced as a module for transition year. Trade between South Korea and Ireland reached €1.8 billion in 2015.

The language will be introduced into four schools in Dublin.

French accounts for more than half of all language sits in the Leaving Certificate, followed by German (13 per cent), Spanish (11 per cent) and Italian (1 per cent).

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the teaching and learning of foreign languages is a priority in the post-Brexit world.

Read more...

Bilingual benefits: why two tongues are better than one

27 March 2018 (Irish Times)

Ireland is speaking more languages than ever before with Polish, French, Romanian, Lithuanian and Spanish all echoing through our family homes.

For years, there was a belief that bilingual children lagged behind academically and intellectually.

More recent studies, however, comprehensively show this is untrue: switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.

Evidence shows bilingual children score better across a range of cognitive tests than their monolingual classmates.

In an Irish context, speakers of a second language have an advantage in a jobs market that places significant value on both their linguistic and cognitive skills. And bilingual children who sit minority language subjects in the Leaving Cert consistently get top grades.

In spite of the clear benefits, many newcomer parents have concerns about bilingualism.  

Dr Francesca La Morgia is assistant professor in clinical speech and language studies at Trinity College Dublin and the founder and director of an organisation called Mother Tongues, which supports parents in passing on their native language.

Read more...

Ninety first languages spoken in NI schools

27 February 2018 (BBC News)

There are about 90 different first languages spoken by pupils in Northern Ireland's schools. Newly published Department of Education figures for this academic year show schools in Northern Ireland are becoming more ethnically diverse.

Read more...

Belfast council unveils policy to promote Irish and Ulster-Scots

23 May 2017 (Belfast Telegraph)

Belfast City Council is to transform how it treats minority languages, with a major promotion of both Irish and Ulster-Scots.
 
In a new policy, which was revealed on Tuesday, May 22 as a public consultation was launched into the proposals, the council will create micro-sites on its website in the languages, as well as responding to correspondence in both.

Read more...

Leaving Certificate language students ‘learning off’ exam answers

11 May 2017 (Irish Examiner)

(Relates to Ireland) In a series of reports on student performance in language exams last June, chief examiners say students must learn how to adapt, instead of using learned-off answers.

The issues were most acute in the 2016 Leaving Certificate exams in Spanish, French, and Italian.

There are many positive aspects, particularly about the competencies of more able students of the six languages, which also included German, Japanese, and Russian.

But in oral exams, which are worth between 20% and 25% of marks in language subjects, a common concern is that students have prepared answers.

The Spanish Leaving Certificate examiner reported, for example, that a number of students had been taught in a “rote-learning” manner that prevented the natural flow of conversation.

“Many candidates had prepared a range of topics in the general conversation, but, when gently disengaged from rote-learned topics, found it difficult to communicate effectively in the target language,” the reports said.

The reports are published today by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), whose chief examiner in Leaving Certificate French said most students were well-prepared for the orals and had a high degree of proficiency and fluency.

However, at the other end of the scale, some of the 25,758 students examined in the subject had difficulty answering even simple questions.

Read more...

All Junior Cert pupils to study a foreign language under new plan

19 April 2017 (News Talk)

(Applies to Ireland) All pupils will study a foreign language for their Junior Cert by 2021 under ambitious new plans being announced by the Education Minister.

The strategy also aims to increase the number of Leaving Cert students studying a foreign language by 10%.

Chinese will be introduced as a Leaving Cert subject for the first time, while so-called 'heritage languages' such as Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese will get a proper curriculum.

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Minister Richard Bruton explained: "We are going to have to, post-Brexit, realise that one of the common weaknesses of English speaking countries - that we disregard foreign languages - has to be addressed in Ireland.

"We need now to trade in the growth areas - and many of those speak Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. Those are the languages that we need to learn to continue to trade successfully."

On the subject of Eastern European languages, he observed: "We now have many Lithuanians and Polish here, and we can develop those languages.

"We also need to use programmes like Erasmus - we want to increase our participation there by 50%. Clearly it has to become more immersed in the language.

"At the moment if you look at Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, French dominates. French is a lovely language, but we need to recognise that we need to diversify into other languages."

Read more...

Learning a language should be compulsory in schools, says report

16 March 2017 (BBC News)

(Applies to Northern Ireland) Learning a foreign language should be made compulsory in primary schools here, a new report has said.

In Northern Ireland, learning a second language is not a statutory part of the primary school curriculum.

In England and Scotland, by contrast, primary school pupils are expected to learn a foreign language.

The review of primary languages in Northern Ireland has been carried out by researchers from Stranmillis University College. The authors surveyed language learning at over 100 schools.

They found that Spanish and French were most popular in schools where languages were taught. Some pupils also learned German or Mandarin.

However, not all primary schools taught an additional language.

This led the authors to conclude that there was "a lack of equity in provision for children" across the country.

Read more...

Arabic? Polish? Dutch? Your views on the languages schools should teach

1 December 2016 (The Guardian)

What languages should we teach children in schools, and why? The question came to the fore on Monday after the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes in British schools.

With 831,000 Poles living in Britain – they make up the largest immigrant group in the UK – introducing the language certainly could help communities feel more integrated.

Traditionally in secondary schools in the UK, the most widely taught languages have been French, Spanish and German, according to data from the British Council in collected from 2013 to 2014. In 2010 the government also decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England thanks to China’s increasing influence on the global economy.

How should we select languages for the curriculum? Should we choose those that are spoken the most in Britain? What languages have been most helpful to you? We asked our readers these questions and this is what they said.

Read more...

Ulster University language staff in Confucius Institute closure warning

23 October 2015 (BBC News)

Modern languages staff at Ulster University (UU) have warned its vice-chancellor that its Confucius Institute may have to close.

Opened in 2012, the institute aims to develop academic, economic and social ties with China.
The university's vice chancellor Prof Paddy Nixon has said the institute is not at risk.

UU decided to close its school of modern languages earlier this year as part of a response to budget cuts.

However, it said they would "continue to support the teaching of Chinese" in schools across Northern Ireland.

Read more...

Language class demands in NI can be met by FE colleges, says UU vice-chancellor

21 October 2015 (BBC News)

The vice chancellor of Ulster University (UU) has said demand for modern language learning in Northern Ireland can be met by further education colleges.

Professor Paddy Nixon was giving evidence to the Stormont Committee for Employment and Learning.

In September, UU said it would close its school of modern languages.

He said the university was "no longer funded to provide the degrees people might like."

Responding to a question from committee chair, UUP MLA Robin Swann, Prof Nixon said that FE colleges could teach languages at the level needed in Northern Ireland.

"The FE provision in languages is actually - particularly when it's about spoken languages as opposed to what a university should be doing, which is a different thing altogether - quite extensive."

"So there is an ability for the system in Northern Ireland to support language provision at the level we need it for business and industry."

Read more...

Ulster University to close school of modern languages

2 September 2015 (THE)

Ulster University has confirmed the closure of its school of modern languages while identifying another four subject areas for “rationalisation”.

[..] Robin Swann, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the chair of its employment and learning committee, said that the closure of the modern languages department would be particularly damaging.

Read more...

Related Links

Minister slated as Ulster University forced to cut language school (Belfast Telegraph, 3 September 2015)

Exporter slams UU decision to close languages school (Belfast Telegraph, 9 September 2015)

GCSE results: figures show slump in foreign languages and rise in computing

20 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Fewer entries for GCSE French, German and Spanish, though grades for languages have improved.

Read more...

Related Links

Drop in take-up of foreign languages prompts concerns of UK's ability to trade globally (The Independent, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: fall in numbers taking foreign languages 'a cause for concern' (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

Why has there been a drop in students taking language GCSEs? Teachers' views (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: Language entries drop for second year running (TES, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results: The top 10 best performing GCSEs of 2015 (The Independent, 20 August 2015) 'Other Modern Languages' in second place.

GCSE Results Day 2015 live: top grades drop for fourth year in a row following efforts to fight grade inflation (The Telegraph live blog, 20 August 2015) [..] 10.20 Figures from today reveal an overall drop in the number of entries to modern foreign language exams. 

GCSE results 2015: pass rate rises but A* grades dip (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
[..]Modern languages French, Spanish and German all saw falling entries, with the numbers taking German this year dropping by nearly 10%. 
 
GCSE results remain stable but major concerns emerge over top grades in maths (TES, 20 August 2015) [..] The number of students taking language GCSEs fell for a -second consecutive year, despite the subjects being included in the government’s English Baccalaureate (Ebac) performance measure.

CBI responds to 2015 GCSE results (CBI, 20 August 2015) On languages, Ms. Hall said...

British Council comments on GCSE languages 2015 (British Council, 20 August 2015)

EBacc effect wearing off on GCSE languages (Alcantara Communications, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results for languages (UCML, 20 August 2015)

Speak to the Future calls for Head Teachers to implement the EBacc and support an outward-facing Britain with an outward-facing curriculum, which includes languages (Speak to the Future, 20 August 2015)

Too few students are doing languages, say firms

12 August 2015 (Irish Independent)

Many multinational and domestic companies have jobs they cannot fill because of a lack of candidates with the necessary language skills.

Fewer than half - 49pc - of this year's candidates took French, while those taking German stood at just 13.2pc. Meanwhile, only about 10pc of candidates sat Spanish, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

Ibec's head of education policy, Tony Donohoe, said that student interest in languages had declined when compared with a decade ago. He warned that it was "vital that we don't find ourselves at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to selling into global markets and attracting foreign investment".

Read more...

Tongue Tied

7 April 2015 (RT London)

Watch British Council's Vicky Gough and lead researcher Bernadette Holmes from Born Global in this RT news piece on native English speakers being the worst language learners in Europe.

More information about the Born Global project can be found on the British Academy website via the related link below.

Read more...

Related Links

Born Global: Rethinking Language Policy for 21at Century Britain (British Academy, 2014) A new policy research project into the extent and nature of language needs in the labour market and the implications for language education from school to higher education.

Primary Modern Languages Programme stopped in Northern Ireland

31 March 2015 (BBC News)

Tuesday was the final day of funding for the foreign languages programme for primary schools.
The Primary Modern Languages Programme has been scrapped as part of Department of Education's cuts for the new financial year.

Four hundred and thirteen schools in Northern Ireland have had staff come in to teach Spanish, Irish or Polish. Eighty-six teachers are employed under the scheme, most working in a handful of schools for a few hours at a time.

The Department of Education said the decision was regrettable but necessary, given the budget cuts they are facing and the fact that the scheme cost £900,000 a year.

Read more...

UCML Initiative: #languagepolicyUK

9 March 2015 (Women in German Studies)

The University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) has recently announced a new strategy to influence the debate surrounding modern languages, and to highlight the potential languages have to inform UK issues such as immigration, terrorism, and social cohesion in the run up to election day.

Using Twitter as the primary social media platform to encourage this debate, the UCML are calling on corresponding organisations – and individuals – to promote the importance of modern foreign languages, and to connect on the aforementioned issues using the hashtag:#languagepolicyUK.

Every fortnight there will also be a twitter ‘chat’ session that will last for one hour. The first of these #languagepolicyUK hours will take place on Saturday 21 March 10am and will be repeated on Sunday 22 March at 2pm for those who could not take part in the first hour. Both sessions will focus on the topic: ‘Connecting for Languages – Why?’.

Read more...

Department urged to reinstate language programme at primary level

23 October 2014 (Irish Times)

Calls have been made for the Department of Education and Skills to reinstate a modern language programme at primary level that was shut down two years ago.

In a consultation document on its planned strategy on foreign languages, the department said the decision to terminate the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative had been made “in light of concerns about curriculum overload at primary level”.

Read more...

A-level results: pass rate ‘declines for first time in 32 years’

14 August 2014 (The Telegraph)

A-level results published by exam boards show the number of A to E grades awarded to students has declined this year, although elite A* grades are up.

[..] Students continued to desert foreign languages following Labour's decision in 2004 to make them option at GCSE, with French, German and Spanish entries all down.

Read more...

Irish language policy of Northern Ireland Executive criticised

16 January 2014 (BBC News)

The Northern Ireland Executive has been strongly criticised over how it promotes the Irish language in a report published by the Council of Europe. The council is a human rights organisation with 47 member states.

Stormont failed to provide the council with information on the use of both Irish and Ulster-Scots, because the NI parties could not agree a submission.  The council's report said more should be done to promote Irish, including in NI's courts and the assembly.

Read more...

GCSE breaking news

22 August 2013 (ALL)

Languages entries are up significantly (likely to be due to impact of EBacc). German up 9.4%, French 15.5%, Spanish 25.8%. Increase in other MLs as well. 44% of cohort took a language.

GCSE results: the headlines for languages.

The JCQ press release ‘languages’ section gives full details.

Read more...

Related Links

'Dramatic' rise in number of foreign language entries (ITV News, 22 August 2013)

GCSE results: ministers hail 'revival' of foreign languages (The Telegraph, 22 August 2013)

GCSE results: At least foreign languages provided a bright spot (The Independent, 22 August 2013)

EBac kickstarts languages revival, but there's still a long way to go (TES, 22 August 2013)

EBacc to the future? Languages results rise at GCSE but is the crisis really over? (Speak to the Future, 22 August 2013)

Why I’m not jumping for joy at the increase in GCSE entries for languages (Alcantara Communications, 22 August 2013)

GCSE results 2013 - live! (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) 09:36 item ‘Language learning on the increase’

GCSE results 2013: science grades fall after papers are made tougher (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) Figures show dramatic rise in students sitting GCSE languages, including Urdu, Arabic and Chinese.

GCSE results 2013: record fall in pupils getting C grades or higher (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) [..] However, there were many bright spots around the country...There was also good news for supporters of modern languages, with a dramatic rise in the number of entries. French, German and Spanish saw a combined increase of nearly 17%.

GCSE results 2013: headlines in vines (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) This year GuardianData has summarised the UK GCSE results in short videos known as datavines. View the key points emerging from the results statistics here...French shows a rise in popularity.

GCSE results 2013: the complete breakdown (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) The three core subjects of English, Maths and Science continue to dominate the list of most popular subjects - no modern languages make it into the top 10 despite a rise in their popularity this year.

Thousands of pupils get GCSE results (BBC News, 22 August 2013) GCSE results in Northern Ireland have stayed almost static this year. [..] Meanwhile, Northern Ireland pupils are becoming less keen on taking French and German at GCSE level but Spanish and Irish are more popular.

Russell Group warning on GCSEs (THE, 22 August 2013) The Russell Group has warned that private school pupils are more likely than state school counterparts to choose science and languages subjects at GCSE, which could give them an advantage in university entry.

English Baccalaureate brings languages bouncing back (London Evening Standard, 22 August 2013)

2013 A level results - languages data

15 August 2013 (UCML)

The A level results came out today (15 August 2013). What's been the impact on languages?

Read more...

Drop in number of A-level students studying foreign languages

15 August 2013 (The Guardian)

A major inquiry is under way after the number of teenagers taking traditional modern foreign languages at A-level fell to its lowest level for more than a decade.

Read more...

Related Links

A-level results show rise in science entries (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) Economics, further mathematics and Spanish also rise while PE, German and drama fall.

A-level results: live (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) (Relates to England) Trend information shows that application rates to traditional language subjects continued to suffer, with German and French application rates dipping 14.53% and 9.9%. But more students opted to study Spanish (+4.08%).

Full results breakdown can be found on the Guardian Education webpage.

Grade inflation is over: Top A-level grades down for second year running (TES, 14 August 2013) ….But the overall decline in the popularity of modern foreign languages at A level continued. French, German and Spanish have seen a collective 17.8 per cent fall in entries since 2008.

Gap widens between A-level students in Wales and England (Wales Online, 15 August 2013) ...Interest in foreign languages dropped again, with 139 fewer French entries this year than in 2012.

33,000 Northern Ireland students get A-level results (BBC News, 15 August 2013)  The results show that Northern Ireland students have performed particularly well in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and modern languages.

Minority languages report top grades (Irish Times, 14 August 2013) (Relates to Ireland) Russian is top for A grades, while science subjects perform poorly.

Ofqual to probe ‘inconsistency’ of top A-level grades (The Telegraph, 9 August 2013) [..] It raised particularly concerns over modern foreign languages such as French, German and Spanish, with warnings that examiners award “relatively few” elite A*s compared with other disciplines.

ASCL congratulates A level students for another year of excellent achievement (Association for School and College Leaders, 15 August 2013) ASCL congratulates this year’s A level students and teachers for another set of excellent results. However the overall decline in the number of modern language entries is a concern and ASCL is calling on Ofqual to address the grading issue urgently.

Latest News

View all news

Schools: Fit for the Future with German More...

Brexit 'hitting foreign languages in schools' More...

Young culinary and linguistic talents celebrated More...

OU/SCILT primary languages course More...