Language learners from a Manchester school got to practice their French speaking skills firsthand when they spent a week visiting counterparts and soaking up the lifestyle and history in the Champagne-Ardennes region of France.
Burnage Academy for Boys successfully applied for a £24,900 Turing Scheme grant to fund the trip for 26 Year 11 pupils, which was arranged with its partner school in France, the Lycée Jean Moulin.
The two schools, which both serve diverse communities facing socio-economic challenges, have had a collaborative relationship since 2013, the head of languages at Burnage, Greg Morrison, having previously worked at the Lycée.
Pupils and staff from the French school have visited Burnage several times during that 10-year period but only one reciprocal visit had previously taken place.
Turing Scheme funding made this second trip possible, however, and the week gave the inner-city Manchester pupils an invaluable opportunity to take part in lessons in a French school, to hone their language skills ahead of GCSE exams in the subject and to gain a better understanding of a different culture.
“Adapting to French life was amazing and meeting new people was incredible to experience and will live with me forever,” said Yousaf, one of the pupils who travelled. “It has boosted my confidence in speaking, and now I feel like I can easily improve my knowledge of French.”
“Talking with the French students and teachers helped me gain a lot of confidence about my French. I was surprised that I was able to understand so much,” said fellow pupil Subhan.
As well as formal academic lessons at the Lycée Jean Moulin, the group’s itinerary also included social and sporting activities with their French hosts and even lessons in patisserie making.
“It felt incredible being able to practice our language skills with the locals, actually being understood, and being able to have full-blown, natural conversation,” said Nawaf, another of the group.
Experiencing French culture in different forms
“The people were very nice and welcoming. The school we visited allowed us to interact with other French students and they were really trying to help us to improve,” added Athar.
The party also visited the local town of Charleville-Mezières, which has links to Manchester dating back to the First World War, where they met the deputy mayor and other local officials at a civic event.
The week concluded with a trip to Paris to see some of the capital’s famous sights, including Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées, the Louvre – where there was a chance to see the Mona Lisa – and the 14th-century Château de Vincennes.
There was time for one final stop off at the Wancourt British Cemetery, where nearly 2,000 soldiers who died in the First World War are buried, as the group were en route to Calais to board the ferry back to the United Kingdom.
“We chose to focus on the French GCSE cohort, given that they have chosen to continue with French study and have an interest in the language and culture,” said Greg Morrison, one of four staff who accompanied the pupils. “We knew that we could cement this by giving them the opportunity to travel to France – something we would have been unable to do without Turing Scheme support.”
“It really was a fantastic opportunity for our students to practice the French language in a real setting, meeting French-speaking students and sharing experiences and cultures,” added fellow staff member Celine Doyle.
“It took pupils out of their comfort zone and made them ‘think’ in French,” said teacher Sally Cottrill. “They experienced French culture in different forms including education, cuisine, art, history and lifestyle – memories to last a lifetime!”
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