Tuesday 13 November 2018

Almost half of state primary schools offer no international education activities;

Only a third of secondary schools offer international pupil exchanges;

All young people need to be able to build their international experience post-BrexitIn International Education Week.

The British Council is calling for all young people to be given the chance to build their international experience. Language skills and cultural awareness will be vital for the post-Brexit economy.

But almost half (45%) of state primary schools offer no international education activities beyond the basics of language teaching, according to British Council research in 692 primary schools and 785 secondary schools in England.

Of the secondary schools offering international exposure, trips abroad are the most popular form of international experience, with the vast majority (81%) offering excursions overseas. Pupil exchanges offering deeper experience in other cultures have declined. Only a third of secondaries offer exchanges, partly due to funding pressures and greater child protection requirements. But there are other ways, such as virtual partnerships with schools overseas, in which students can build these important connections with other languages and cultures.

Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council said: “Pupils do not need to go on expensive trips abroad to have international awareness. International partnerships and projects in schools allow pupils of all backgrounds to experience other cultures and develop their intercultural skills. This is vital for a generation growing up in an increasingly connected world.”

 Reay Primary school in Lambeth has seen the impact of international activities on their pupils’ enthusiasm for language learning and their understanding of the world. The school has worked with educators and experts in Spain, Zimbabwe and Portugal. Their international activities enable pupils to more confidently communicate with people from other cultures.  Reay was recently accredited with the British Council International School Award for its excellent international curriculum and has moved from a ‘good’ rating to an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

Government figures show that lack of foreign language skills is costing the UK economy around £48bn a year, or 3.5% of GDP. Cultural awareness is also crucial to trading, to effectively target products and lead negotiations.

Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council continues: “The decline in international experience in our schools is regrettable as international awareness and skills are more vital than ever as the UK leaves the European Union. We encourage schools to celebrate International Education Week with us using the lesson plans, planning tools and case studies on our schools online websiteto start pupils on their international journey.”


Notes to Editor

For more information on International Education Week, visit schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org or follow #LearnALanguage and #BeInternational on twitter. 

SchoolsOnline.britishcouncil.org offers teachers support in creating international experiences in the classroom. We provide support for partnering with schools abroad, pupil exchanges, international curriculum projects and for teacher continued professional development abroad. This includes online support, recognition and funding.

The British Council Language Trends Survey 2018 is part of a series of annual research exercises which started in 2002, charting the health of language teaching and learning in schools in England. This year’s research was an online survey completed by teachers 692 primary schools and 785 secondary schools in England. 

International Education Week began in 2000 in the USA and was established in the UK in 2004. It is now celebrated annually in November in more than 100 countries throughout the world. The British Council champions International Education Week in the UK by encouraging schools to celebrate their international links and to showcase the ways in which embedding an international dimension in their curriculum has benefitted students, teachers and the wider school community. This year’s British Council focus for the week is why we need more of us to ‘be international’ including learning other languages.

The cost of foreign language deficit figures: The Costs to the UK of Language Deficiencies as a Barrier to UK Engagement in Exporting: A Report to UK Trade & Investment was UKTI commissioned research into the potential effect on the UK economy of poor language skills among the UK workforce. James Forman-Peck and Yi Wang, of Cardiff University Business School, produced the report.


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. britishcouncil.org