On a visit to Portfield Special School in Haverfordwest, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, met pupils and staff who have taken part in an exchange trip to Sweden and Belgium, which has been made possible thanks to Taith funding.
Portfield School is a special school for pupils aged 3-19 years. Pupils have a wide range of complex Additional Learning Needs (ALN), such as autism spectrum condition and social, emotional and behavioural needs.
Taith provides opportunities for learners, young people and staff in every type of education and youth setting to travel abroad to learn, as well as allowing organisations to invite their international partners to come and visit Wales.
Pupils in years 8-11 at Portfield are involved in the project which will enable staff and pupils to visit ALN schools in Uppsala, Sweden and Flanders, Belgium. The funding also enables pupils and staff from the partner schools to visit Wales this summer, enabling pupils friendships to strengthen and provide further social and academic experiences.
Many of the Portfield pupils have never been abroad. The Taith funding has enabled the school to access the specialist equipment needed for a foreign exchange trip, such as hiring a specialist bus which makes accessible travel possible for disabled people.
Greater levels of independence and communication skills are just some of the benefits the pupils have gained from their Taith experience.
Ellie, one of the nine Portfield pupils who visited Belgium in May 2023 said:
"For me it was life-changing because you actually got to see what the children did in the school. My favourite part was the art. We made cardboard Christmas trees with wool around them. I learnt you can do different things. I learnt how the children are different from us as they play different games on the playground.
“I would tell people to go to Bruges to see the Christmas markets. The thing that was special was how big they were and how there were loads of different stalls, It was the time of my life, it truly was.”
Jeremy Miles added:
“It really is fantastic to see the impact Taith is having, enabling us to break down barriers to international exchange and opening up opportunities for all.
“It’s been great to speak to pupils and staff at Portfield school about how their Taith trip has helped build confidence, broaden horizons, and grow aspirations.
“I would encourage schools and all educational settings across Wales to apply for Taith funding. The latest application window is open now and closes on 20 March.”
Since launching in 2022, Taith – the Welsh Government’s international learning exchange programme – has awarded funding to support nearly 12,000 learners and staff to learn, study and volunteer at over 90 countries