By Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education, Welsh Government

16 December 2020 - 11:00

Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education
Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education ©

Welsh Government

What vision do you have for Wales as a multilingual nation?

I’m committed to the vision that all learners in Wales become multilingual global citizens. It’s vital we promote the importance of modern foreign languages and the significant life and career opportunities they bring to our young people.

Learning languages doesn’t just equip our young people with qualifications, it broadens their horizons, deepens cultural understanding and provides skills they can use both here and across the world. 

What objectives should be prioritised for promoting language learning in Wales?

I recognise that greater communication and awareness raising is central to schools’ understanding of the importance of international languages.

In line with my ongoing commitment to international languages, I agreed a further two years funding for the next phase of our Global Futures programme (2020-2022). The programme will focus on increasing the overall numbers of learners in Wales studying languages at all levels and across all sectors. 

A key strategic aim of our revised Global Futures programme is to support learners, parents and schools to understand the many benefits of language learning to address negative perceptions. 

I want to empower both our partners and practitioners to build shared understandings and address common, national barriers to effective curriculum implementation for languages.

What strengths does Wales have in language learning? What challenges does Wales still face?

Being a bilingual nation is certainly a strength. The Language, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience will promote a holistic approach to language learning, building on our rich linguistic heritage as a bilingual nation. 

I am always delighted to see each year the excellent attainment of our language students which is testament not only to learners’ hard work but also to the excellent teaching that these students have received.

I am also encouraged that our primary schools are already increasing their language provision. To know that there is excellent work already being undertaken in our primary schools is heartening as this will provide the building blocks to support our vision of a multilingual Wales.  

I am also acutely aware of the decrease in the number of learners studying Modern Foreign Languages in secondary schools in Wales. We are working with the help of our Global Futures partners to ensure that more learners study a language and schools offer choices for all pupils. 

What opportunities will the new curriculum bring to promote language learning?

The new Curriculum for Wales offers the opportunities to develop language rich environments and provision across Wales. It marks a change of culture from one of telling schools what to do and what to teach, to one which gives the responsibility to schools for developing a curriculum that works best for all their learners but within a national framework.

This development process should encourage greater collaboration, within language departments, across the school, with other schools and also, crucially, with learners themselves. Schools should feel empowered to be creative and to develop meaningful learning opportunities across a range of experiences and contexts that meet the needs of learners. 

What are the main strengths and successes of the Global Futures Strategy?

It is important to recognise the support that Global Futures has provided to challenge negative approaches and perceptions to learning a language. The Global Futures Steering Group, which includes partners from regional education Consortia, Estyn, language institutes and universities, has worked to raise the profile of, and provide expertise and support for, language teaching and learning in our schools. 

Global Futures funding has resulted in new centres of excellence, where schools work in partnership with universities to improve the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages.  

The award-winning Welsh Government funded MFL Student Mentoring Programme, managed by Cardiff University, has increased take up of MFL at GCSE by an average of 50% in participating schools over the four years it has run, and reached over 10,000 pupils. 

I agreed additional funding for the regional consortia in 2020-21 to enhance their support offers for modern foreign languages (MFL), with specific focus on the Primary sector. The aim is to build vital capacity in the system. 

I have supported this further with additional funding for primary school teachers to take part in the Open University’s Teachers Learning to Teach Languages (TELT) in primary schools scheme, which offers beginners French, German, Spanish and Mandarin.

There are exciting opportunities within the new curriculum structure to create a rich and effective multilingual policy for language education in Wales. We will continue to support schools to understand and maximise these opportunities so our young learners can compete in the global marketplace.