Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne, has warned that the drop in teaching of foreign languages risks widening gaps between students from different economic backgrounds.

His comments come as a recent Department of Education audit warned that some schools would have to reduce access to foreign languages due to difficulties recruiting qualified teachers.

Deputy Byrne said, “It is deeply disappointing that we are seeing the gap between pupils of different socio-economic backgrounds widening in recent years.

“Foreign languages are arguably some of the most valuable skills that young people can learn to prepare them for the workforce. Without access to these languages, we risk a further diluting of the level playing field provided by our education system.

“This is a result of a series of policy decisions made in recent years. The teacher supply issue, in combination with the abolition of the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative has left Ireland at a disadvantage. This urgently needs to be addressed.

“The Government approach to this so far has been lacking. To date they have largely copied (in part) the approach put forward by Fianna Fáil to address the teacher supply issue which is welcome at a very belated stage, but no action has been taken to improve access to modern languages at primary level”, concluded Deputy Byrne.