GNVQ students cope better abroad after extra teaching before they go, reports Estelle Maxwell. When Kellie Parrat and Jenny Bates took part in an exchange visit to northern France over Easter they had a working knowledge of the region and could cope with the demands of the language.
For before their visit the 16-year-olds from Hinckley college, Leicestershire, had their advanced leisure and tourism General National Vocational Qualification course extended. They were able to brush up their communication skills, get to grips with the French keyboard, and learn about the history of Alsace.
The pair were among a group of students to benefit from an ambitious partnership involving a cluster of east Midlands and Alsace colleges aimed at encouraging a European approach to vocational education and training. It led to the creation of a set of vocational language and cultural briefing packs.
Now in its third year the east Midlands-Alsace project has set up 27 active partnerships between further education and sixth-form colleges in both regions. The partnerships produce joint projects and place students in work in electronic engineering, cars, finance, secretarial and business administration. Staff are found teacher placements.
Janet Payne is Euro Unit manager at EMFEC, the regional advisory council for FE which oversaw the formation of the partnership with funding from the Department of Employment via local training and enterprise councils. She explained how a review of its pilot year highlighted colleges' differing needs.
Most felt there was a need for better briefing and language preparation to enable students to perform well both socially and in the workplace, while others wanted to develop a joint curriculum.
She said: "Within their training most students would not gain the vocational language and cross-cultural adaptability they needed to function well in another country so a number of the east Midlands colleges looked at how they prepared for the exchange."
As a result some of the colleges, including Wilmorton, Hinckley, Loughborough, Charles Keene, and Wigston, developed briefing and language packs which have now been trialled - and which could be adapted to other colleges in foreign exchanges.
These include a multi-French language module for car technicians on work placement, cultural briefing and language assessment materials for GNVQ business studies students and a vocational language course in French and English for electronic engineers on Higher National Diploma courses.
Independence from local authority control, according to Paul Hogarth-Blood, industrial coordinator at Broxtowe college, Nottingham, which produced pilot teaching and learning packages for electronicselectrical engineering students, in partnership with Leicester's Charles Keene college.
He said: "Our students have responded positively to the opportunities offered by the project. They see it as a chance to work in France and get the skills, background and knowledge they need to work on the continent."
Su Barton, a businessadministration lecturer at Hinckley college, which has produced an assessment and log book package in French and English to structure students' placement in offices and assess their competencies, said the material could be adapted for other colleges. She said: "This offers students the chance to take part in a validated programme about their experiences in keeping with GNVQ monitoring."
Further details of the joint curriculum work produced by the east Midlands-Alsace partnership may be obtained from EMFEC Euro Unit, telephone: 0115 929 3291.