Sheffield teacher attends Parliamentary meeting to discuss the importance of foreign exchange visits

A language teacher from Sheffield has travelled to the Houses of Parliament to represent his school at a meeting held to discuss why fewer students are taking part in foreign exchange visits.

Thursday, 28th February 2019, 08:14 am
Updated Thursday, 28th February 2019, 08:17 am
James Edwards (right), head of foreign languages at Shirebrook Academy, with academy principal Mark Cottingham outside the Houses of Parliament

James Edwards, head of modern foreign languages at Shirebrook Academy, was invited to speak about the school’s plans to hold what is believed to be its first ever foreign exchange visit at a meeting with the All-Part Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages.

The meeting was chaired by Baroness Coussins – who is currently part of the International Relations Committee – and organised to look at the challenges teachers face in organising international exchanges with only 30 per cent of schools currently take part in foreign exchange visits.

The meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages in which the importance of foreign exchange visits was discussed

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Shirebrook Academy will be teaming up with a school in Toulon, in Southern France, who will be sending 11 students to Shirebrook next month, with 10 academy students set to make a reciprocal visit in May.

Mr Edwards travelled to London on Monday, February 25, with academy principal Mark Cottingham, and spent around 10 minutes talking about the school’s plans alongside presentations from the British Council and Anglo-European School, a specialist foreign language academy in Essex.

Also attending the meeting were MPs, peers and representatives from other schools and universities, who were able to ask questions during the event.

Mr Edwards said: “The whole day was an incredible experience and we were both extremely proud that Shirebrook Academy had been invited to talk about such an important issue.

“I spoke about the hurdles schools have to overcome to organise trips, but also spoke about how fantastic our students and their parents have been in buying into the idea of taking part in our first trip and agreeing to host an overseas student.

“The opportunity to experience living with a family in another country can be life-changing, while hosting a visit can make you reflect on your culture and local area through different eyes.

“Several people told us how such visits had changed their lives, including someone who grew up in a disadvantaged community in Lancashire and is now a member of the European Commission.”