School toasts Viva España with embassy award

Sangria of the non-alcoholic variety flowed and tapas were the order of the day as girls at a Cork school toasted an award for their Spanish programme.

The annual Spanish Day at Scoil Barra Naofa Cailíní in the suburb of Beaumont had an extra special meaning after its recent selection as Colegio Español del Año by the Spanish Embassy.

The accolade is being given in recognition of the work from infant classes to sixth class in the language and culture of Spain, which have been interwoven with the rest of the curriculum for over a decade.

“It started when we joined the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) in its pilot phase, working with just fifth and sixth classes. But we’ve extended it in the last two years to give the girls in every class a taster,” said principal Margaret McCarthy.

“They can all count or tell the different colours in Spanish, they learn songs and rhymes and we have signs around the school in Spanish as well as English and Irish,” she explained.

With the assistance of three hours a week of teaching from Argentinian Elvia Browne, the pupils are prepared for Spanish and other languages when they go on to second level.

“Their parents tell us the girls are great to use it when they are on holidays in Spain. But it also means they have a greater aptitude for learning any new language in secondary school,” the principal said.

The Spanish Day turned Scoil Barra Naofa into a sea of red and yellow yesterday, as the 250 pupils swapped their uniforms for traditional costumes, flamenco outfits and sports jerseys. The Colegio Español del Año prize will be accepted at the Spanish Embassy in Dublin next week by Ms McCarthy, deputy principal Mary Sexton and Spanish teacher Ms Browne.

However, the principal said it is hugely disappointing that the MLPSI is being discontinued from next autumn as the €2.5m annual running cost at almost 550 schools is being reassigned to literacy and numeracy.

“It’s an awful travesty that it’s being withdrawn at a time when the country is trying to be forward-looking and more aware of other cultures, but especially when we can see the positive impact the programme has on our pupils’ ability to learn other languages,” Ms McCarthy said.


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