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Former minister joins education leaders at Norwich conference

PUBLISHED: 18:37 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:27 21 March 2018

International Norfolk Conference at UEA. Picture: Angie Sharpe

International Norfolk Conference at UEA. Picture: Angie Sharpe

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Former education minister Baroness Gillian Shephard joined international education experts at a conference in Norwich on Wednesday.

International Norfolk Conference at UEA. Picture: Angie SharpeInternational Norfolk Conference at UEA. Picture: Angie Sharpe

The event, organised by Norfolk County Council, gave teachers and education leaders from across the county and international partners the chance to share the best aspects of their work in schools and universities. It had a particular focus on how to tackle the challenge of teaching of modern languages in schools.

Speakers at the International Norfolk Conference, that attracted 100 people, included Professor Emerita of the School of Education at Salem State University (USA), Dr Louise Swiniarski.

The conference, held at the University of East Anglia, welcomed 20 visitors from abroad, including China, Serbia, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Ghana, who discussed the strengths and challenges of their own education systems.

Baroness Shephard, who is fluent in French, said she had a special reason for placing great value on learning foreign languages.

She said: “I’m interested in social mobility, and when you learn a language you are absorbing skills you can use in other areas of life, listening, responding and improving how you interact with people – ‘soft’ skills which are very, very important.

“That’s why I was so interested that the County Council has this initiative and I’m impressed that programme has involved so many countries, it’s a positive and cheerful day – there’s a real buzz.”

Education adviser for Norfolk County Council and conference organiser Robert Rickard said: “It’s fantastic to have so many people from different countries coming together to encourage each other to organise exchange visits and sharing the best aspects of their education system that could be replicated in other countries.

“We are encouraging schools in Norfolk to look outwards beyond not only our county but also our country and to seize the rich opportunities that come with international partnerships.

“In Norfolk there are plenty of ways staff and students can experience other cultures, whether they are able to go on an exchange visit or whether they can welcome someone to come from abroad. These collaborations offer fresh perspectives, new skills and possibilities for the future for everyone involved.”

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