Welsh school pupils recognised in language learning initiative

18 May 2016

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The first cohort of school pupils to benefit from a Welsh Government initiative to encourage modern language learning will be celebrated this week at a recognition event held at Cardiff University.

The Modern Foreign Language Student Mentoring Scheme was launched in December 2015 to combat the ‘serious decline’ in the take up of modern foreign languages by school pupils in Wales.

The event which is being held on 19 May is an opportunity to reward the pupils that have taken part in the scheme from South East and South Central Wales and to show them life at a university.

Approximately 150 pupils will be presented with participation certificates and given a tour of the School of Modern Languages which will involve taster sessions in Japanese and Portuguese, two of the languages on offer at Cardiff.

The mentoring scheme, which is part of Welsh Government’s Global Futures strategy, has seen the language departments of Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities work together to train undergraduates to become mentors for pupils in local secondary schools.

Following last year’s launch, modern language coordinators in schools were asked to identify pupils in Years 8 and 9 whom they felt could benefit from the mentoring scheme. In some cases, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were given the opportunity to take part whereas in other schools, pupils were chosen because they were undecided on their GCSE choices and the option to select languages.

In all cases, pupils involved in the scheme have attended sessions with their undergraduate mentors designed to highlight the benefits of learning modern languages and the career opportunities they bring.

Evidence from mentors and mentees thus far suggests a very positive student experience and increased aspiration to take languages at GCSE.

The scheme builds on existing work taking place between universities and schools in Wales, including the Routes into Languages Cymru programme, through which universities engage in outreach programmes with pupils in local primary and secondary schools.

As well as creating sustainable links between HE modern foreign language departments and secondary schools, the scheme will offer employability experiences and opportunities to modern linguist undergraduates.

Professor Claire Gorrara, Head of Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages and academic lead for the project, said: “This project offers participating schools and pupils an excellent opportunity to work with talented university modern linguists who demonstrate the very real benefits of further language study.”