MFL Mentoring Schemes by Alex Wright

In first term of third year, I received an email from the University sharing an opportunity to be part of an MFL mentoring scheme funded by the Welsh government. I was intrigued by this email, however I had not participated in any active language learning since taking French at A level and German at GCSE. Although I can speak Norwegian, I could not see how this would be beneficial to GCSE students. After having investigated a bit more into what the scheme actually entailed, I thought I would apply, and I’m very glad I did!

The Modern Foreign Language scheme

The MFL scheme has been running for over six years now and was created in order to encourage GCSE students to take a language. The scheme partners University students with a local secondary school; then, sessions are run with students who are aged between 12-14. The application process was uncomplicated, and all they ask is that you have a passion for language and have experience with language learning. To my surprise, the mentoring did not actually involve teaching the children anything in terms of language learning, but rather talking to them about different cultures, languages and identity to spark passion and interest. I thought this was an incredibly effective way to get school children to think about the world around them, and for them to appreciate that learning a foreign language can create more opportunities and advantages for them.

Taking part in the MFL scheme

Alex Wright, MFL mentor!

After having my application accepted I was then invited to a training weekend at Cardiff University. The training days ran from 9am-4pm Saturday and Sunday and were a great chance to meet other students who were also involved in the mentoring scheme from universities all over Wales. The training involved safeguarding, a DBS check, understanding the role of a mentor and the practising of tasks to do with the children. The training was a really good opportunity to practise and understand how to do the sessions and the most beneficial ways to get the children involved and engaged.

The most valuable part of this weekend in my opinion was understanding why the mentoring scheme is so important. For example, did you know that under 15% of GCSE students take an international language at GCSE? I do not necessarily think that taking a language for a GCSE qualification  is the most important part, however, children should get an opportunity to learn more about the world around them and to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity which make the world a more enriched place.

When the training and DBS check were completed, I was assigned a school in Llanelli and was informed that I would be delivering Linking Languages Workshops. The alternative to the language workshops would be the year 8/9 mentoring sessions, in which as a mentor you would have weekly sessions with the same group of students. The linking languages workshops are done with different groups of students each time and is a way for schools to have more students involved in the mentoring. Being involved in this mentoring scheme is something different and interesting to do, it also is a good thing to add to the CV! In addition to the amazing experience of being a language mentor, you also get a bursary from the Welsh government of up to £200 as well as reimbursement for all travel needed for the sessions and training weekend.