In May 2007, the Minister announced the introduction of a Primary Modern Languages Programme (PMLP) to support primary schools that wished to introduce a modern language. The main objectives of the programme were to:-
- offer an enjoyable experience of languages for young pupils (Foundation/ Key Stage 1), with a view to encouraging more to continue with languages at post-primary level and beyond;
- develop pupils’ language skills, particularly listening and speaking skills; to support the development of communication skills and associated areas of the revised curriculum; and
- enable primary teachers to develop interest and confidence in teaching modern languages.
PMLP is funded by the Department of Education (DE) through earmarked funding.
The programme is managed by an Accountability Group led by an SEELB Assistant Senior Education Officer supported by a full time co-ordinator and Executive Officer based at the SEELB and a part time field officer based at the WELB.
Initially, only the Spanish and Irish languages were supported through the PMLP but Polish was included in 2009. The main method of delivery is the use of Peripatetic Primary Language Tutors, often supported by class teacher and/or language coordinators based in school.
PMLP has grown to the extent that 65 Spanish Tutors, 18 Irish Tutors and 3 Polish Tutors, operating within 456 schools (54% of primary schools across NI), deliver language tuition to upwards of 32,768 primary school pupils in Northern Ireland on a weekly basis.