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European partners eager to learn from language mentor successes

22 July 2019

Modern foreign language student mentoring

A pioneering mentoring initiative, led by the School of Modern Languages, is now sharing best practice with partners across Europe.

After four successful years of placing undergraduate students in local schools in Wales, the Modern foreign language student mentoring scheme is now developing relationships in Spain.

Over 70 secondary schools currently take part in the scheme which sees students mentoring and encouraging younger school pupils to consider studying foreign languages. Partner schools have reported a doubling, and in some cases a tripling, in the number of pupils choosing languages at GCSE as well as improved motivation to continue studying and go to university.

Consequently, Welsh Higher Education Brussels (WHEB), which facilitates relationships between Welsh Universities and regional partners on the continent, has organised a series of events and knowledge transfer scenarios to spread the word to colleagues in Europe.

In March, a delegation of student mentors from across Wales was invited to Belgium by WHEB where they attended the annual St David’s Day reception in the UK Ambassador’s Residence in Brussels with First Minister Mark Drakeford in attendance. Mr Drakeford talked about maintaining Wales’ voice in Europe and highlighted the importance of projects such as the MFL mentoring scheme as an aid to promoting a global mindset.

Following this event, four of the student mentors travelled to Valladolid in northwest Spain to mentor primary school children and to be shadowed by training teachers. The four students, Lewis Hacker, Emily James, Natalie Organ and Rhiannon Williams, stayed with Spanish host families during their visit which provided them with a unique insight into Spanish life and the school system of the region which, like Wales, is devolved from central Spanish government.

Watch Lewis Hacker talk about his experience in Valladolid

This June, the School welcomed a delegation of Spanish government officials to Cardiff after the successful mentoring trial to discuss next steps. The colleagues visited primary and secondary schools in the local area and started forging links to develop pupil and teacher exchanges. The colleagues also met with Welsh Government and discussed the shared vision for promoting plurilingualism. In the next academic year, the mentoring project will again travel to Valladolid to inspire more young people to be globally minded and culturally sensitive and it is hoped that the partnership between the region and the School of Modern Languages will be consolidated over the coming years.

Lucy Jenkins, National Coordinator of the Modern foreign language student mentoring scheme said, “It was fantastic to welcome our colleagues from Spain to Cardiff. We’re all on the same page in terms of ensuring that our young people have the opportunity and enthusiasm to study international languages. As members of a global community, it is becoming increasingly important for young people to be equipped with the skills to communicate effectively across borders and cultures."

"It’s brilliant to see such enthusiasm for what we’ve already put in place in Wales and for European colleagues to be looking to Wales as a model for boosting motivation for the study of languages and cultures. We’re really proud of our work to date and are delighted to think that it will have an effect on pupils in Spain, or indeed further afield in the future.”

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