Academy chief hails the importance of students embracing foreign languages

At the end of the month the school will welcome its first ever group of foreign exchange students in the shape of 11 young people from Toulon in the south of France, writes Mark Cottingham, principal at Shirebrook Academy.

They will come to Shirebrook and stay with local families.

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy.

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy.

By coincidence, their trip will coincide with the day the UK officially leaves the EU.

I do think that younger people’s opinion of Brexit has been neglected.

But it was made clear to me by a language student when the school was invited to the House of Lords recently to talk about exchange trips.

Talking about the need for languages in schools, he said that to the young generation the world was a smaller place, because other countries’ arts, sports, music, attitudes and cultures are freely being broadcast on YouTube and kids are tuning in.

They have a better understanding of what students in other countries are into because content is no longer limited to country boundaries.

And the proliferation of global brands means that a high street in France is increasingly like a high street in Nottingham.

Young people across the world are culturally, psychologically and emotionally closer now than they ever have been.

And this means they are more equipped than ever before to live and work overseas.

So by learning a foreign language, they can capitalise on this even further.

Sadly, a recent survey found that foreign language learning in UK secondary schools is at its lowest since the turn of the Millennium.

Not at Shirebrook where we’re committed to promoting foreign languages and the number of students choosing languages is increasing.

This is why we’re excited about inviting our French students over – even if the UK is severing links with the mainland at the same time.