About our school

Ysgol y Moelwyn is a Welsh-medium school located in the beautiful historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, in the heart of Gwynedd. It is a relatively small school with just under 350 learners in years 7 to 11.

As the only international language teacher in the school, I have been able to teach every single learner, which makes us a very close-knit community.

I have been teaching at the school for five years, and with the school closures due to Covid-19 and the poor attitudes towards learning an international language when I first started, it has been a challenging time. However, we have persevered, and we now feel a bit of a buzz from the languages department!

For the last few years, we have had Pupil Language Ambassadors leading the way in raising the profile and promoting the values of language learning at Moelwyn, and they have been involved in several different activities.

Their training began with a live virtual tour around Peru with Routes into Languages Cymru where they had the opportunity to learn about another culture and language and broaden their horizons ready for leading the way themselves. They completed several challenges throughout the year and started up a languages club in school. This concluded with them coming 2nd in the competition for Team of the Year Award in 2022!

Some talented year 8 and 9 learners also had the opportunity to take part in Seren Sylfaen training sessions for languages this year as some of Moelwyn’s most talented linguists!

They participated in an online workshop and activities and entered the competition to design a poster with a saying in an international language and one of our year 8 learners came 2nd and won a book voucher!

They took their time out to come back to the classroom after school hours to take part; now, that is dedication!

Here they are with their certificates:

Activities and languages

As a rural community in North Wales, it can sometimes be challenging to portray the importance of learning languages to our young people, which is why it is vital to create authentic experiences for them.

Because of the pandemic, it has been almost impossible to arrange trips abroad (our Christmas trip to Lille was cancelled in 2020!) so we have tried to make the most of what is available to us here.

Just around the corner from the school, we have a cinema called CellB, which is a former police station (hence the name!) so it’s a very cool place to go and watch a movie in the old cells!

With the help of the IntoFilm Festival, we were able to take our year 7 learners to see the French-language animated film, ‘Zarafa’, for free, so not only were we supporting the local community, but the learners had the opportunity to bring the language they were learning to life outside of the context of the classroom.

Furthermore, our year 8 learners went on a trip to London this year where they visited the Insititut Français in London, had a walking tour of Soho learning about the French history of the Huguenots, and enjoyed an evening meal at a French restaurant.

It was a brilliant few days for learners and staff alike without the worry of travelling abroad!

Curriculum for Wales planning has definitely provided greater freedom in the department with a focus on teaching for purpose and enjoyment.

It has brought about opportunities to collaborate with other departments and areas of learning and to work with more literature, songs, and art.

Despite the challenges of school closures during the pandemic, we cannot deny that it provided a chance to experiment with new ideas and technology and to think outside of the box.

The department has taken advantage of the opportunity to work across the Areas of Learning and Experience.

Learners worked on gothic literature with the English department and described a gothic image in French.

In Art lessons learners created their own Matisse-inspired ‘cut outs’ using a description in French.

Science and geography lessons saw learners creating a children’s book on jungle animals and during lockdown learners had the opportunity to have a go at making delicious crêpes in cookery lessons!

Here are some of their successes:

European Day of Languages has been a key day for the department, and we like to celebrate it in different ways every year on the 26th of September.

We held a bake-off competition where we raised nearly £200 for Macmillan Cancer Support, and last year we had a t-shirt designing competition.

These events have brought the whole school together and have drawn interest to learning languages amongst staff and learners, which has been such a positive experience!

Improving engagement within the classroom has always been a big focus for the department at Moelwyn and we are always thinking of ways to make lessons more fun.

My learners love a game of Balloon Pop (from WordWall.net), Blooket or ‘un dé, un stylo’ (one pen, one dice), which all create a buzz in the classroom, and an excitement for the language.

In the recent school Eisteddfod, learners took part in a competition to create calligrams in French on the themes of animals, films or family and the results were fantastic!

MFL Mentoring and our school

Finally, I would like to talk about the success we have had with MFL Mentoring. We have been fortunate enough to have had several mentors visit Moelwyn (both phyically and virtually!) to provide cultural and linguistic experiences for our learners to increase engagement and uptake at GCSE.

The response has been incredibly positive and the sessions have provided learners with the chance to enjoy languages outside of the traditional classroom setting.

When I started at Moelwyn 5 years ago, there were 3 learners in year 11 and zero learners in year 10 studying an international language; by now we have at least 10 opting to study French each year at GCSE, which I feel is a massive achievement.

We still have some work to do, but the world is our oyster!