A partnership which brings university students into school classrooms to encourage pupils to learn a modern foreign language is being celebrated for its innovative approach to education.
Launched in 2015, the Modern Foreign Language Student Mentoring Project delivers face to face mentoring in secondary schools to support the Welsh Government’s Global Futures strategy which aims to increase the number of young people choosing to study a modern foreign language at GCSE, A level and beyond.
It has been adopted internationally and was adapted in England to promote the benefits of language learning to thousands of pupils in two English regions in 2018-20.
Professor Claire Gorrara and colleagues from Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages teamed up with the four Welsh education consortia, including the Central South Consortium (CSC) - a Joint Education Service for five local authorities: Bridgend, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale of Glamorgan - to deliver the mentoring project.
It places undergraduates from Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities into local schools in Wales to mentor pupils and encourage them to consider choosing modern foreign languages at GCSE.
Professor Gorrara said: “We are delighted that our partnership model has been recognised for helping pupils explore their place in a globalising world and introducing them to the professional and interpersonal benefits of learning languages, as well as aspiration to go to University.”
“A digital iteration of the project was developed and delivered in 2017-18,” added Professor Gorrara. “ Digi-Languages used digital interactions to create a blended face-to-face and online experience. A comparative digital languages project secured funding from the Department for Education and we worked in collaboration with The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University in South Yorkshire and The University of Warwick and Coventry University in the West Midlands in 2019-20. We delivered the project to 40 schools. The project in England maintained the ethos and approach of the Welsh project.”
Feedback from the Digi-Languages pilot in 2018 showed that 43% of pupils mentored chosen to study a modern foreign language at GCSE, against a national average of 18% in Wales.
Clara Seery, Managing Director of the Central South Consortium, said: “The Consortium empowers schools to improve outcomes for all learners. The Modern Foreign Language Student Mentoring Project has played a key role in broadening the horizons and aspirations of learners.
“The mentoring scheme has highlighted the skills, mobility opportunities and wellbeing advantages available to those with language skills. It is helping to raise expectations, improve motivation and create sustainable links between Higher Education modern languages departments and partner secondary schools.”
The scheme was the inspiration for a HEFCW funded £200k project which supported Physics uptake at A Level in 2018-20 and a sister project promoting the uptake of Welsh post-GCSE.
And it has generated international impact. The School of Modern Languages forged a partnership with Spain’s Regional Government of Castilla y Leon, developed through an award from Cardiff University’s Centre for Education Support and Innovation, and involving the Universidad Valladolid.
The Modern Foreign Language Student Mentoring Project is one of six partnerships recognised for innovation impact by Cardiff University in 2020 - and is being showcased as part of Cardiff’s growing work on innovation nationally and internationally.