Thousands of young people in England will have the chance to take part in international exchanges and visits thanks to a new £2.5 million programme, the Education Secretary announced today (19 January).
Schools in England will be able to apply for grants to take pupils aged 11 and above to visit partner schools around the world, giving them the chance to experience different cultures, improve language skills and build independence, character and resilience.
The programme, which will be principally focused on supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds, will be run in partnership with the British Council – whose own research has found that only 39% of secondary schools run international exchanges. For independent schools, the figure is 77%.
As education ministers from around the world prepare to gather in London for the Education World Forum, Damian Hinds has stressed the importance of ensuring disadvantaged young people don’t miss out on the life-changing experiences and academic opportunities offered by overseas visits.
Evidence shows that businesses are increasingly looking for employees with international experience and language skills – and, according to a British Council survey, almost two-thirds of university language students said that an international exchange helped inspire them to choose their degree course.
The programme will build on the government’s work to encourage more pupils to study a foreign language, including their inclusion in the English Baccalaureate. Since 2010 we have seen 45% more entries in GCSE Chinese and 51% more entries in GCSE Spanish.
Funding will be targeted at schools with above-average numbers of pupil-premium students. Over the course of the programme, it is estimated that trips could be funded for 2,900 pupils. Young people will be encouraged to stay with host families abroad where possible, maximising their opportunity to practise language skills and be fully immersed in another culture.
To make the scheme as easy as possible for schools to take part in, there will be a simple application process, grants to cover the administrative cost of organising trips, and seminars to help schools without much experience of international visits find partner institutions abroad – in Europe or further afield.
Schools will be able to register their interest on the British Council website from Monday.