Children as young as four will be taught Polish in Northern Ireland primary schools from September, it was revealed yesterday.
Because of the numbers of Polish families who have moved to the province and 1,700 Polish children in schools, the language was added to the Spanish and Irish already on offer.
So far 25 schools have signed up to have a tutor provided for their Primary 1-4 classes under a scheme funded by the Department of Education. During the last school year 247 primary schools had regular Spanish lessons and 76 Irish lessons.
News of the expansion of the languages programme, and a sports programme running alongside it, was given by Education Minister Caitriona Ruane in her ‘end of term report'.
The aim of the language programme is to offer an enjoyable experience of language learning for the youngest pupils with a view to encouraging more to continue at post-primary level.
The minister said: “Since the programme began we have made around £1.5m available and during the last school year we had 323 schools and around 13,000 children participating every week.”
Ms Ruane said Irish was the native tongue and in recent years there had been a welcome increase in the number of people choosing to learn it.
Spanish was offered as it was the second most widely spoken and first language of many countries around the world.
“Due to the increase in newcomer children from Poland we will offer Polish lessons to primary schools from September.”