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Organising an exchange

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by lisemrethore, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. lisemrethore

    lisemrethore New commenter

    Hello everyone,

    It is the first time that I post on here so I am a bit nervous!
    I am trying to set up a new exchange with a school in France, that have already been doing it for 28 years.
    My school/department have never done it before. We submitted our project to the head teacher last week and she is 'extremely concerned about the potential child protection risks. (...) There were also concerns about the number of our children who would not be in a position to host a child in return.'
    However, it is not a straight 'no', but I would like to know if there are any MFL teachers here who could give me a few tips/pieces of advice in order to reassure her and make the right decision (ie: How do you check that all families are safe? Do you do a DBS check on everyone? How do you introduce the families? etc)

    Any reply would be hugely appreciated as I really want to make it happen but just need a bit of help...

    Thank you!
  2. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter


    I'm running our first exchange at Easter - the school hasn't had one for about 20 years. Fortunately no-one (EVC, Head, etc.) has raised any concerns of the type you are suggesting, and the guy at County Hall has been great too. They've all basically just said great idea, go ahead.

    If you go to this page, you'll find a document with guidance for exchanges which is really helpful.

    Your council may have a sample risk assessment for exchanges - it's worth having a look. One for Leicestershire can be found here.

    It may be worth talking to the council advisors first as they will be used to dealing with other schools who do exchanges and may be able to provide some information to reassure your Head about how it all works.

    Regarding the arrangements for host families:
    • Everyone signs something about it being a "reciprocal arrangement for the mutual benefit of our children" or something along those lines. They commit to hosting if they want to go.
    • This does limit the number of pupils you can take as obviously you get a few who would otherwise want to go, but can't host. That's life, and how exchanges work.
    • We're getting a French casier judiciare check carried out for the French host families, as apparently it's free and a lot easier than a DBS. We're not doing a DBS check on the English families as the French think the idea is totally bizarre and unnecessary.
    • We did questionnaires of pupils to help us match them to a good exchange partner and included consideration of dietary requirements, pet allergies etc.
    • Host families sign a form (available on OEAP website) confirming that their guest will either have their own bedroom or be sharing a room with their exchange partner who is of the same sex and similar age, dietary requirements will be accommodated, and that if a private family vehicle is used to transport them, it will roadworthy and appropriately insured.
    • Pupils had contact details of their exchange partners about 10 weeks prior to the trip so they've been able to start emailing etc. to get to know one another.
    Of course nothing is risk free. But conducting risk assessments doesn't mean eliminating all potential risk (else no-one would ever do anything). It's about weighing up the risks and putting things in place to minimise them, and considering how to respond to situations should they arise.

    Hope this helps. I can send you my risk assessments and the questionnaire we used (which I got from another teacher on a Facebook group anyway) if you send me your email address.
    missrebeccak and JosianeSandy like this.
  3. FrauSue

    FrauSue New commenter

    You can also give all pupils a little laminated card to keep in their wallets with the details of their host family on one side and your mobile number, the school phone number and the emergency services' number on it.

    If you are worried that some of your pupils are in positions where they are unable to host for the 'home' leg of the trip, you could ask if any other participating families are willing to host two exchange students. It should be a reciprocal arrangement where possible, though.
  4. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    Try out some "what if" scenarios with your partner school to make sure you are on the same page when it comes to looking after children. After a few years of doing an exchange you have a relationship where these things (hopefully) are understood, but in year 1 it's worth exploring in advance!
    "What if a child is unhappy with the family?" "What if we get a phone call in the middle of the night saying it's an emergency?" "What if a child is ill and can't come to school?" "What if the family want to take the child to their holiday home in the mountains at the weekend?" "What if they organise a party and pupils who are not on the exchange bring alcohol?" "What if the family are leaving the child home alone?" "What if the pupil is being brought to school on the back of a motorbike?" "What if the family have made lots of lovely plans but the pupil would rather see more of their group of English friends at the weekend/evenings?" "What if photos appear on Instaface showing the pupils smoking marihuana?" "What if there is a strike and we have to stay an extra night?" "What if we've already bought our tickets and then you decide to cancel?"

    Similarly make a list of points you want discussed at the French school's parents' meeting. Including "Do you have any plans at the weekend that we should let the English know about?" Eg horseriding, off-roading, clay pigeon shooting, swimming, skiing, trampolining, paintballing...

    Better to be prepared - these things (all) do happen! If you have a plan or a good understanding with your partner school then it helps!

    Oh, and make sure you're using a school phone not your own to communicate with pupils.
  5. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Sounds like a recipe for hair loss to me!
  6. curlyk

    curlyk New commenter

    Some brilliant and comprehensive advice has been made re organising an exchange trip on here.I organised many such visits during my teaching career and yes ,they are exhausting to organise and supervise, at both ends of the exchange, but very worthwhile.My best ever students had been on two or three exchange trips before choosing to do languages at A level. Worries re checks on families have become a priority for Head teachers , but with the advice given in previous posts you should be able to address these issues. Ask yourself again why you want to start up an exchange,use the information above to answer your Head`s concerns and then go for it. I suggest you make sure sure that you have some time out events planned for your pupils when they are on their away leg, so you can give both sides some respite and a chance to talk through concerns, this could be a coach trip out or two , a meal at a local cafe for your pupils only etc.On the home leg try to have some social activity to bring everyone together and help celebrate the department`s success and invite the Head.! As it is your first trip perhaps keep it small.Does your school`s home town have a twinning arrangement with the area you intend to visit ? They might be able to pass on some advice re things to do ,photos of the area etc. for the pre visit meeting you will have with parents. The French school with whom you are hoping to run this exchange has a wealth of experience to tap into, so do not be afraid to ask them as many questions as necessary to stiffen your resolve and give you the positivity to take on your Head`s resistance. I used to take a friendly member of the SMT with me to France whenever possible, or at least get one of them to host a French teacher or two .Good luck !
  7. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Updating in case the OP comes back.

    I just got back from our exchange yesterday and am so glad I did it, even though setting everything up from scratch (as it was the first exchange from my school in 20 years) caused a lot of stress along the way.

    We had no issues whatsoever with the host families - the only problems we encountered were unrelated to it being an exchange (long delay getting off the ferry, pupil getting a 24h sickness bug, breakdown on journey back from Portsmouth yesterday). Pupils couldn't believe how well they were looked after by their exchange families and the efforts they had made to make them feel welcome, take them out at the weekend, buy Easter eggs for them, etc.

    I took such a mixed bunch of pupils (Y8 to Y11, from most to least able, including SEN, EAL and hearing impaired) but they gelled really well as a group and all seem to have had a great time. Loads want to come back again next year and others are making plans to go back in the summer with their families or even on their own.

    It was incredible to see their confidence grow in such a short space of time, and some of them pick up French customs and mannerisms so quickly. Coach journeys involved pupils playing bilingual charades and speaking Franglais because they couldn't think of the English word for things as they were "in French mode".

    We do still need to sort out a few more host families for the return visit (French coming over in just over 2 months) but there's so much enthusiasm at the moment that I'm sure a few more pupils will convince their friends to host, or be willing to host 2. Otherwise they will stay with families from the twinning association.

    So it is possible to set up a new exchange even in our bureaucratic and risk-averse culture. It is a lot of work, it is stressful, and you'll probably feel like packing it in half-a-dozen times along the way. But running this exchange is definitely the most rewarding thing I've done since starting my teaching career.
  8. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    Well done to anyone willing to undertake the minefield of foreign exchanges in our modern times.

    As a 14 year old I was given an introduction to a French family via my school i.e. an address and then was left to organise everything ourselves. Quite what my parents were thinking of I don't know! They took me on the train Blackpool to Preston, then super embarrassed me by asking 2 elderly ladies on the Preston to London train to look after me. On arrival at Euston at about 11 30pm I had NO idea what to do but ended up sharing a taxi to Victoria. I then spent the night on a bench guarding my suitcase with several rough sleepers! At something like 6 am I caught the boat train to Newhaven ready for my 3 week exchange..... yes 3 weeks !! Thankfully my French family lived in Dieppe and so started a friendship which lasted well into adulthood with my French exchange partner. We repeated the exchange in my 5th year and met up years later when we were camping as a family in N France. We spent a lovely day en famille with our 2 young families having a great time. I never looked back from the language advantages it gave me re French.
    When teaching - though fighting tooth and nail to make sure I never had to teach French ever again, I volunteered to assist with exchanges and really enjoyed our twinning with a school in Hésdin, (the kids all called it Hes din instead of "Aydan"!) I ended up running the last 2 exchanges we did. It did become increasingly difficult to persuade British kids/families to undertake this 2 way process though. I was glad to be able to involve my own 2 children even thought they weren't at my school. as their school did nothing in that line. My younger went as a 10 year old year 6 but had a wonderful family to stay with and again it gave both of mine an exposure which really helped them with especially their "ear" and pronunciation.
    I read the lengths staff have to go to nowadays with horror as tbh the admin I did in the 90s was difficult enough but not as all encompassing as that mentioned above. We did use a company called Dragon International I think and they were good, though probably pricey....... We had a kid upset at having to enter his French partner's house through the underground garage where papa hung his game from la chasse, and some perturbed at having to eat animals "still bleeding on the plate" but thankfully no major issues! It did our kids a great deal of good to have 2 days at a French school with its timetable.... exhausted them for a start. It didn't do me any good to stay with the male Head of PE and family who had a timetable ..a full one... which gave him 2 days off a week... Wed and Fridays where on one of them he taught tennis privately in Le Touquet and on the other he played golf! Hs architect designed house was just fabulous. The French staff could leave the premises if not teaching i.e. go into town to the bank etc..... and they did no pastoral work. To put a kid in detention saw the kids have to attend school on the Saturday supervised by "surveillants" Brilliant! No lost breaks or 10/15 mins out of French teacher lunchtimes! To top it all the French woman PE teacher to whom I was attached on those 2 school days... would collect her class at a designated point in school, walk them to the terrain de sports, the kids would put their things in the changing rooms and emerge for her to waft a finger in the direction of the riverside path and with a "Allez-vous en, mes enfants" they would have to jog a circuit alongside the river and she would retire to the seating in the stand and her bottle of red wine would be sipped at from the inside of her rucksack! Out of sheer boredom I would try and slope off to the sports hall to watch the athletics going on in there.
    We had a great 2 days off timetable too with our kids when one day we took them to Paris and a hectic day of sightseeing and another on the beach at Berck plage. The second trip saw a had to be endured day at EuroDisney (pause to spit) and another trip to Paris.

    So.... well done for flying the flag for exchanges.......it gives our kids something they will never forget (ours never forgot me swearing at some Spanish kids who were intent on jumping the queue at EuroDisney..... I didn't realise any of ours were around and so uncharacteristically for me in teacher mode..... told these kids what I thought in colourful language! I was mortified when I read someone's account of it in their yearbook the next year! )
  9. missrebeccak

    missrebeccak New commenter


    I am also trying to get an exchange organised - could you send me your risk assessments and the questionnaire you used? It would be very helpful in persuading my Head of Department!
  10. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter


    Yes, if you PM me your email address I can send you some stuff.

    Risk assessment wise, most of it was stuff that applies on any trip (for the journey and excursions) but the specific exchange elements were:

    Risk: Pupil becomes distressed when handed over to host family.
    Risk control:
    • Pupils and parents to have email contact with host families for at least 2 months before visit, relationships already established.
    • Possibility for a few pupils of a nervous disposition to be hosted in pairs (2 English pupils in one household) to reduce the likelihood of severe homesickness.
    • Welcome event/meal at school to allow pupils to get to know their host family before going home with them
    • Staff will remain until all pupils are calm and settled.
    Risk: Unsuitable host family (lifestyle or risk of abuse).
    Risk control:

    • Questionnaire conducted prior to matching pupils to ensure the best possible match.
    • Place pupils in host families which are best suited to guarantee their well-being (with regards to dietary requirements, pet allergies, etc.).
    • Where possible, pupils have been paired with a pupil of the same gender. In cases where pupils have been paired with a pupil of the opposite gender, the pupil had previously indicated on their questionnaire that they did not have a preference concerning the gender of their exchange partner.
    • Host school is a small establishment (250 pupils on roll) so staff know pupils and families well to aid in selection/vetting of families.
    • Host school to arrange a casier judiciare criminal record check of all adults residing host families’ homes and provide evidence of this to KM before departure.
    • Host families to complete form from OEAP website, assuring various ways in which they will guarantee the wellbeing of the hosted pupil.
    • Pupils and parents to have email contact with host families for at least 2 months before visit, relationships already established.
    • Check information host school provides to families (inc. information re: not allowing pupils to smoke or drink alcohol, safe activities).
    • Pupils to maintain contact with HPS staff via mobile phone (and email if wifi available in home) as and when required.
    • Group activities arranged for part of every day of the trip to prevent pupils becoming isolated in host families and to allow staff to monitor their wellbeing.
    • Road traffic accident
    • Pupil gets lost while out with host family.
    Risk control:

    • Host parents to sign form stating they will ensure any vehicle used for travel is roadworthy and insured, that they will not drive under the influence of alcohol, and that all passengers will be required to wear seatbelts.
    • Pupils to contact staff via school mobile (card issued with contact info) if they have any concerns about their safety whilst travelling with host family.
    • Pupil not to be allowed out unaccompanied – always with a member of the host family.
    • Train everyone re right hand traffic. Explain host country’s traffic systems, pedestrian crossings etc.
    • Host family to have a copy of staff contact number so they can get in touch immediately in the event that a pupil becomes lost.
    Hope this is of use.

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