MINTO (GNB) – Early French immersion will be offered at 67 schools around the province in September, including at six schools where immersion is not currently being offered.

“Education is crucial to our economy and quality of life,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “Studies show that when it comes to learning a second language, earlier is better. We are pleased to restore French immersion to Grade 1 and give more families the opportunity to enrol in the program, especially in rural New Brunswick."

The six schools are: Blackville School, Nelson Rural School, North & South Esk Elementary School, Keswick Ridge School, Minto Elementary Middle School and Montgomery Street Elementary School.

The new Grade 1 program has been enhanced based upon the most recent research on French learning. Enhancements include a stronger literacy focus with an emphasis on oral language and will include authentic French language experiences.

Grade 1 students will receive less than 10 per cent of instruction in English. This accounts for courses such as phys-ed and music where the teacher may not speak French.

Many of the schools offering early French immersion in September 2017 will be able to accommodate interested students from neighbouring schools. Districts monitor enrollment numbers and assess Interest in French immersion on a regular basis.

Also, in order to improve access to French immersion in rural schools where there is some interest in immersion but insufficient interest to create an immersion class, the department is working on enhanced materials for French language learning. Pilot projects will be introduced in September in one school in each district. Currently, non-immersion French learning opportunities begin in kindergarten and focus on an appreciation for French language and culture. The pilots will provide extended opportunities for students to actually learn to speak, read and write in French.

The schools offering these pilot projects will share best practices, participate in peer-mentoring and be monitored to see how these learning opportunities could be expanded to other schools.

In 2011, a review of the entry point of French immersion was commissioned by the provincial government. The review, chaired by former ministers of education James E. Lockyer and Elvy Robichaud, recommended that the entry point for early French immersion be Grade 1.

A complete list of schools offering early French immersion is available online.