In her first official engagement as Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan has praised the Erasmus+ programme and the benefits it has given to young people, trainers and learners throughout Wales.
Ms Morgan was hosting an event in the Senedd in Cardiff celebrating 30 years of Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes.
She said: “Erasmus+ is truly transformative as it builds the confidence of those who take part and gives us a better understanding of our partners. Wales is punching above its weight in accessing Erasmus+ funding and it’s very important that we celebrate our achievements and ensure that these opportunities continue, giving more young people from Wales the chance to study, train or volunteer abroad.”
Since the current programme began in 2014 Wales has benefitted from nearly €30m of funding from Erasmus+, according to figures released by the National Agency responsible for delivering the European Union scheme in the UK.
The funds already awarded this year will be shared by 41 Welsh organisations across the education and training sectors.
The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector saw the largest rise in funding in Wales in 2017, with €2.2 being awarded to colleges, up from €1.3m in 2016.
Jodie Pinnell, Course Leader, Outdoor Adventure, from Coleg Sir Gâr, a further education college in Carmarthenshire, spoke at the event, together with some of her students, and said: “Coleg Sir Gar has benefited from the Erasmus+ project for the past two years by running two week work placement trips to Palma Mallorca with our Sport, Outdoor Adventure and Travel and Tourism students.
"The experiences have proved to be seminal for students with the promotion of European mobility, independence and valuable work experience in placements that many aspire to pursue when they complete their courses. The opportunity for some is particularly enriching as they had never left the UK before, let alone do a two week work placement. The confidence, social skills and cultural experiences gained by our students have made the Erasmus+ project an important part of the students’ learning journey and one we hope to continue for years to come.”
Welcoming the news that €2.6m was also awarded to schools across Wales in 2017, Keri Bosley, Head of Languages at Crickhowell High School, said: “I have been amazed and delighted by the whole school impact of participating in Erasmus+. Crickhowell High School has sent over twenty staff members to a wide range of European countries, including Poland, Germany, Italy, Finland, Denmark and France with teachers completing language courses, observing good practice and sharing ideas.
"As a school and as professionals we have broadened our horizons; our teaching, learning and curriculum development are significantly improved and our students receive a richer educational experience. Interestingly our appreciation of our own Welsh heritage and its importance in our students’ educational experience has also been enhanced whilst our commitment to Modern Foreign Languages and international culture goes from strength to strength.”
Due to the work of schools like Crickhowell High School and many others in Wales, the number of school staff estimated to train or job shadow in Europe quadrupled from 61 in 2015, to 269 in 2016.
Jane Racz, newly-appointed Director of the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK, said: “Organisations throughout Wales work extremely hard to ensure that thousands of young people, learners and staff are able to benefit from the scheme and it was fantastic to hear those stories at the event.
"The stories ranged from a university student becoming confident through studying in China, to volunteering on a farm in Belgium, Welsh school teachers learning best practice from schools across Europe, and college students gaining real travel and tourism course experience by organising a cultural trip within Mallorca. It was an honour to have Eluned Morgan open the event for us in her first official role as Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning and to have her backing for the scheme.”
With the highest ever amount of funding available to the UK next year, at around €170m, organisations in Wales are encouraged to continue to engage with Erasmus+ to help even more of its young people and educational staff to benefit from an international experience.