Fifteen sixth-form students from Trinity Catholic School in Nottingham will be immersing themselves in the language and culture of the northern French city of Rouen thanks to a Turing Scheme-funded work experience placement.
The students will be visiting the city in February 2022 and placements have already been lined up to fit their interests. Working at dog groomers, radio stations and record shops are among the more unusual experiences planned.
Turing Scheme visit a “double whammy”
“When I was at school, overseas trips were a massive thing,” said the school’s Head of French, Josh Mills-Afford. “COVID has had a big effect and stopped this. It has also stopped work experience placements. In this project, we have combined linguistics and work experience, so it’s a double whammy.”
The French teacher will be joining his students during the visit and will be carrying out workplace inspections to ensure that learners are getting the most from the experience.
“We are hoping this will be more about the wider experience rather than just doing a forty-hour week,” he said. “We are a Catholic school and on both Sundays we will be going to mass in Rouen Cathedral. We are also considering a trip to Paris on the middle Saturday.
“Part of the plan for the cathedral visits is to have students give a reading in French during a Sunday morning service. It would be a huge boost to their self-confidence and their confidence with speaking in French. It should be a mutually beneficial and culturally interesting exchange.”
There are also plans to provide subsidies for some out-of-work activities, for instance, to enable students to go to a café with their French workplace hosts. The organisers are also looking at providing other cultural activities such as visiting the cinema.
Network of contacts built for work experience and home stay
Most students will be staying in small groups. However, those who are sufficiently confident are able to stay on their own with a host family.
“The host families are a pre-formed network and regularly welcome students from across Europe. It’s not an untested set of parents,” said Josh. “It’s important that there is full immersion, speaking the language at work and living in a French environment.
“I’ve worked with Blue Stamp Travel on this trip. They’ve got a really extensive network of people in Rouen who are able to provide host families and work experience.”
Josh feels visiting a French-speaking community is vitally important for his language students.
“Despite my best attempts, it’s not until you are dropped in a place that speaks the language, that language is truly relevant. If you need to use French to interact, to get around, or to eat, it becomes relevant.
“In a language lesson, I might spend 10 minutes doing listening activities. In the country you spend 24 hours doing it. In terms of their exposure to listening alone, this trip is worth its weight in gold.”
Raising awareness of language study among FE students
The school hope that the project will be key in convincing younger students of the need to study languages.
“People don’t see where speaking a language can take you,” said Josh. “There’s no awareness that languages can provide opportunities elsewhere. If I can show people that they can study abroad, that they can work abroad, then I don’t have to say it anymore.
“If I were an employer or university lecturer reading an application, then there are going to be thousands of people with the same qualifications saying, ‘I work hard, I love X’. This visit is the distinguishing factor in a personal statement and will set them apart.”