Auld Alliance helps shape a new century

Scotland and France will next week enter an agreement to promote exchanges and projects between the pupils, students, teachers and policy-makers of the two countries.

Jim Wallace, Scottish Deputy First Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, and Francois Fillon, French Minister for Education, will sign the joint Declaration of Intent for Co-operation in Education and Training in Paris on November 30, St Andrew's Day.

The agreement is aimed at strengthening relations between France and Scotland in priority areas such as school education, lifelong learning, mobility, vocational training, information technologies and teacher training.

It will build on existing links - including exchanges between Scottish and French higher education institutions and between schools through the language assistant exchange programme - as well as European programmes.

An action plan will be presented to ministers next year, setting out proposals for projects between pupils and students, teachers, school managers and educational policy-makers.

These will be implemented by a transnational group whose representatives on the Scottish side will include the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Scottish further and higher education funding councils, Universities Scotland, local authorities, the General Teaching Council for Scotland and HMI.

Mr Wallace told The TES Scotland: "Scotland and France have long enjoyed a warm and productive relationship, spanning generations and covering many aspects of life. Not least is the way we have each benefited from sharing good practice across the education sector.

"The Franco-Scottish co-operation agreement on education which I will be signing in Paris next week reaffirms Scotland's commitment to working with France - one of our closest and oldest European partners."

Mr Wallace has told officials and others involved in drafting the agreement that it must result in "real benefit on the ground". He added: "I look forward to seeing the action plan which will be drawn up over the next six months to ensure this is the case."

The Lifelong Learning Minister also helped mark 100 years of the British Council's language assistant programme, commenting: "French language assistants have played an invaluable role in improving the language skills of generations of Scots in schools across the country. Language skills are high on the wish list of Scottish companies seeking employees, and can make a real difference to gaining and growing business in today's globally competitive marketplace."

The signing of the agreement will be one of several events bringing to an end Scotland's Entente Cordiale centenary activities. A number of French and Scottish language assistants will attend, in the 100th year of the language assistantship scheme.

France is by far Scotland's biggest partner under the programme - about 60 per cent of foreign language assistants in Scotland are French, while about half of Scotland's assistants are working in France.

The declaration is modelled on last year's Anglo-French Education Agreement, signed in February in Le Touquet by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary in England, and Luc Ferry, former French education minister.

This has already led, during the Entente Cordiale centenary year, to a host of initiatives including partnerships between English and French schools, teacher and student exchanges and placements, funding for research projects and seminars for school heads and officials on a range of issues from behaviour to policies for integration.

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