A REPORT this week has highlighted an alarming decline with Welsh Schools’ provision of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). In a hasty response, Education Minister, Huw Lewis, announced new plans to improve and promote MFL across Wales’ schools.
The report, published by the British Council and CFBT Education Trust, which was carried out across two thirds of Welsh secondary schools, showed a drop of over 4,000 pupils since 2002 taking either a German or French GCSE.
At the same time as Wales reached near crisis levels for MFL uptake, England and Scotland, unlike the Welsh government, put in policies to increase provision. As a consequence, uptake in French increased in England by some 19% between 2012 and 2013.
As England has introduced a compulsory MFL curriculum at primary level, Wales has not. Even where MFL is compulsory, in the first 3 years of secondary school, the report showed that only a minimal or fragmented experience of language learning was being received by pupils.
Earlier this year a Welsh Government spokesperson was quoted as saying: “Learning a modern foreign language is not compulsory in primary schools in Wales”, but continued by opining that, “it should be noted that all children in primary schools in Wales are taught Welsh”.
Reacting to criticism and alarming statistics, Huw Lewis has launched, this week, ‘Global Futures’, a plan, he said, to improve and promote MFL in Wales that will come into effect from September and will be supported by up to £480,000 of Welsh Government funding in the first academic year.
The minister went on to say that under the plan, one secondary school in each of Wales’ four regional consortia will be appointed as a Centre of Excellence for MFL. Teachers at the appointed Centre for Excellence will receive targeted Continuing Professional Development and benefit from new partnership arrangements with language institutes and Welsh universities to help them develop high level language teaching skills.
They will then be tasked with working in partnership with other secondary schools and primary schools in their area to drive up teaching standards for MFL across the region. An MFL steering group, he said, that was made up of experts from schools, universities, Estyn, British Council, language institutes and education consortia will also be established to ensure the plan is fully implemented.
Mr Lewis said: “Linguistic skills are rapidly becoming one of the most important skills a young person can acquire to compete for jobs in the global economy. They are important to Welsh businesses too as increasing amounts of our trade and commerce is done with new partners overseas.
“I want to ensure that more and more of our young people actively choose to study a Modern Foreign Language as part of their school education, and develop the skills they need to thrive in a modern global economy. We need a radical and new approach.”
Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “As with any ‘outreach’ initiative it is wholly vital that this is seen as working with schools rather than simply monitoring and challenging them. Regional consortia bodies have failed to find the correct balance in the past.”
However, Dr Philip Dixon, Director of ATL Cymru, said: “This announcement is far too late and far too little to stem the catastrophic decline in the teaching of modern foreign languages. That decline has been apparent for over a decade. We must wonder if the Welsh Government is serious about this matter at all. Changes to the way schools’ performance is measured, to be introduced in the next year or so, will simply make things worse. We fear it is a case of ‘adios’ to foreign languages.”
Also commenting on the news that the Welsh Labour Government is to overhaul its strategy on MFL was Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education, who said: “Labour took measures which actively discouraged modern foreign language study, slashed funding for the National Centre for Languages and failed to capitalise on a successful pilot of foreign language study in primary schools.
“The ability to communicate in multiple languages is an increasingly valuable skill in the international jobs market, but unfortunately if young people lack the skills employers seek, Wales will fall further behind in the global race.
“Language learning is crucial to the future of the Welsh economy and can help ensure that Wales doesn’t become isolated with school leavers and graduates only able to communicate in their mother tongue.”
Asked if it might be the case that Welsh language teaching had replaced MFL provision, a Pembrokeshire County Council Spokesperson said: “MFL and Welsh are not treated similarly due to the statutory requirement to teach Welsh second language in primary schools and up to the age of 16 in secondary schools. MFL teaching is only required to be taught from Years 7-9 (ages 11-14). The statutory nature of Welsh second language is a curriculum priority set by the Welsh Government.”
Canned Food UK & Tata Steel launch package design challenge
Canned Food UK (CFUK) and Tata Steel in Europe launch the Packaging Design Challenge this week on April 24 2020.
The challenge encourages children aged 15 and under to design and create their own pack which demonstrates packaging’s important role in protecting our food and drink.
To take part entrants first create their ‘product’, a sponge in a freezer bag with 200ml of water and secondly, a pack for their product using materials otherwise destined for the recycling bin which have been cleaned such as cereal boxes, milk cartons or loo roll holders.
Entrants are invited to send photos or a video to CFUK by tagging Instagram posts with @cannedfooduk or #packagingdesignchallenge or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entries should show how their packs are decorated, which parts are recyclable and if their pack survives the drop test – dropping their pack from head height to see if the product leaks.
A winner will be selected by a panel of experts for a chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers and the closing date is midnight on Monday 22 May 2020.
The challenge launches with a live session on Canned Food UK’s Facebook page at 11am on Friday 24 April with Nicola Jones, Tata Steel’s Packaging Recycling Education manager, who normally visits schools nationwide delivering interactive workshops that showcase the benefits of packaging.
“Lots of families would have been returning from the Easter break this week and I would have been in classrooms talking about how steel is made and why we use packaging. I wanted to continue to share these resources and the Packaging Design Challenge was the perfect opportunity,” comments Nicola.
“It’s a straightforward activity that children can do with minimal adult supervision, that’s away from a computer screen, and at the same time, learn about how packaging protects our food and drink, reduces waste and how it’s recycled.”
“I think the challenge will showcase the effectiveness of packaging, just like the can which has great shelf appeal, durability and of course, is infinitely recyclable,” adds Robert Fell, director at CFUK and competition judge. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries, especially if they survive the drop test.”
Strictly Cymru brings dancing a-plenty to 2020
Disabled people from all over Wales have waltzed into 2020 for Strictly Cymru – the country’s renowned inclusive dance competition.
Run by charity Leonard Cheshire, in partnership with the national governing body Paradance UK, the competition has seen dancers in both inclusive and wheelchair-specific categories compete in six heats across South Wales, in preparation for the grand final on 6 June. Strictly Cymru is now in its third year.
Winning in the inclusive categories at the Carmarthen heat on 17 January were Coleg Sir Gar students Kieron, Toby, Thomas, and Max, as well as Richard, who came independently from Coleshill Day Centre in Llanelli and wowed the judges with his Michael Jackson inspired fast feet and moonwalk. A few days later, Rebecca, Chloe, and Anesha from Heronsbridge School lifted the trophy at the Bridgend heat on 21 January.
Gower College students Daniel and Carys wowed the judges with their synchronised dancing at the Cardiff heat, while Coleg Gwent student Matthew secured a place on the final in the inclusive heat held in Newport last week.
Meanwhile, in the wheelchair dance category, dancers Chad and Ben took gold in Carmarthen and Bridgend respectively. The Carmarthen heat rang with the sound of Chad’s catchphrase of “Absolutely fantastic!”
Then, the fifth heat in Cardiff saw the youngest person to take part in Strictly to date, five-year-old Inga, win in the wheelchair category, before Robin John won the final wheelchair heat in Newport after being inspired by his partner Dianne, who was highly commended in last year’s competition grand final.
Dance instructors from Paradance UK also took the participants, who came from schools the community and Leonard Cheshire services in the area, through their paces ahead of each dance-off to give everyone the best chance at reaching the final.
Chad said: “It has been a really great two days and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and learn tango. I’m looking forward to the final.”
Robin John, winning at Newport, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful, I’ve tried before and lost, but it feels on a whole different planet to win a heat! I’m looking forward to the final and don’t mind which genre of dance I get, I can adapt to most things.”
Ruth Jones, MP for Newport West, was a judge at the heat there. Ruth said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand, but it was amazing. As you walked into the room the enthusiasm hit you like a wave. It was so hard to choose a winner because they were all brilliant in their own way, everybody did the maximum they could possibly do.”
Alan Dear, Head of Theatre and Arts at Newport Live, helped support the Newport heat and said: “It is the most joyful thing I have done in years.”
The heats were open to people of all ages and abilities and the overall winners of the competition will be crowned in the Ffwrnes theatre in Llanelli on 6 June 2020. There they will receive the coveted Strictly glitter ball trophy.
Lee Waters in School Council Summit
LOCAL Member of the Senedd, Lee Waters has held the third Llanelli School Council Summit in the Welsh Parliament for secondary school pupils from across the constituency.
Over 70 pupils from schools right across the area visited the Senedd to learn how the Welsh Parliament works and take part in debates in the old Assembly debating chamber.
Pupils chose to debate lowering the voting age and banning diesel cars. They also had the opportunity to question the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething about their concerns and on his experiences as a Minister in the Welsh Government.
Lee Waters MS said
“Every year since becoming elected I’ve invited the school councils from the secondary schools across Llanelli to the Senedd for a School Council Summit. I’m really pleased that the event has grown and grown.”
“The pupils enthusiasm and grasp of the issues was really impressive, and it was great to hear their thoughts on some really important issues.”
“I was delighted to give pupils a chance to discuss their ideas with the Health Minister Vaughan Gething, debate issues that are important to them, and get practical careers advice learn from past pupils at their schools who now work in Welsh public life.”
“I want to show that pupils from Llanelli can succeed at whatever they choose in life, and get them involved in Welsh democracy.”
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