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Primary pupils from third class up to learn a foreign language from September 2025


Major changes to primary education are being rolled out in the 2025-26 school year, in the biggest shake-up in 25 years

Major changes to primary education are being rolled out in the 2025-26 school year, in the biggest shake-up in 25 years

Major changes to primary education are being rolled out in the 2025-26 school year, in the biggest shake-up in 25 years

Primary pupils from third class up will be learning a modern foreign language from September 2025, under a radical restructuring of the curriculum.

It is among the major changes to primary education being rolled out in the 2025/26 school year, in the biggest shake-up in 25 years.

A key feature of the new approach to educating 4-12-year-olds will be that children themselves will have a greater say in how they learn.

The student voice will be underpinned through the Parent and Student Charter, legislation for which is currently going through the Oireachtas.

The new framework is a lot less rigid and creates space for schools to decide how best to organise a timetable for their pupils

Schools and teachers will also have more flexibility in how they approach the curriculum and how much time they spend on certain areas.

The redeveloped curriculum sees an integrated approach to teaching and learning through five broad thematic areas, from junior infants up:

  • language, including a foreign language from third class up;
  • science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education;
  • wellbeing
  • arts education
  • social and environmental education (history and geography).

From third class up, there will be more differentiation into individual subjects, while also continuing an integrated approach.

In addition to the five areas, school can also have a beliefs/religious programme in accordance with the school ethos, although the time for faith formation will be reduced.

There will be minimum weekly/monthly time allocations for individual areas, as well as flexible time, which schools can use as they see fit.

For teaching of the newly-introduced modern foreign language, the NCCA suggests one hour a week for pupils in third to sixth classes.

The traditional half hour a day for patron’s religion programme is being cut from - two and a half hours a week to two hours. But there will also be one hour and 40 minutes for a more general, multi-belief /ethics/values subject.

For junior infants to second class, a monthly allocation of five hours is suggested for flexible time, rising to six hours for first and second class and seven hours for third to sixth class.

The Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA), which represents nine in 10 primary schools. welcomed the framework, describing it as an “historic moment”.

“CPSMA recognises the work undertaken by NCCA in relation to the curriculum and thanks them for their ongoing engagement with stakeholders in this regard.,” said CPSMA general secretary Séamus Mulconry.

Both the CPSMA and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) called for the provision of time and resources to allow schools to engage with the change in a meaningful way.

INTO general secretary John Boyle said “teachers and schools must be given dedicated time to engage with, understand, implement and embed the curriculum.

“The Department of Education and other stakeholders must undertake a clear and comprehensive communication strategy ensuring adequate resources including a comprehensive programme of in-person professional developments to support curriculum change together with specific funding for school resources.

Mr Boyle said the reduction of primary class sizes to the EU average of 20 will be vital for the successful implementation of the framework, as would the restoration of promotional posts of responsibility.”

While the framework has received a broad welcome, Conradh na Gaeilge has expressed concern about a 14pc reduction in the time allocation for Irish for pupils from third class up, from the current three and a half hours to three hours.

“We believe that this is a regressive step for the schools that operate through the medium of English (92pc of all schools).

“We have some basic questions about this - has the Department researched the implications for the standard of Irish in primary schools if the amount of time for teaching Irish is reduced by 14pc per week?” said Conradh president Paula Melvin.

The new curriculum has created a flexible seven hours per month for schools to use as they wish, but Ms Melvin she said there was no guarantee that it would be used to replace the 30 minute reduction, especially in schools “that do not sufficiently prioritise the language."

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