Grange Community Junior school visit to Meudon

Darren Neve, Deputy Headteacher and orchestrater of the visit, said, “Grange Community Junior School is located within an area of multiple deprivation where many children’s experiences of travel, especially abroad, is either little or non-existent. I felt I owed it to the children to see if I could organise a small-scale visit to give them valuable cultural and language learning experiences they would otherwise struggle to have.”

Grange Community Junior School has worked in partnership with École du Val school in Meudon for the last couple of years, and pupils began with exchanges of letters, photos and drawings. The time felt right to move ahead with a face to face visit.

Mr. Neve gained the full support of the Rushmoor Twinning Association and his contact Alison Boukhobza, and Isabelle Boucheron Lobera who, at the time, worked for Meudon town council. Piece by piece, the programme was put together which involved a representative pupil from each of the year 5 and 6 classes (4 pupils) and two members of staff. Pupils applied for the opportunity and using set criteria the whole staff selected Elizabeth (Betty) Sammons and Jacob Anderson from Year 5 and Emily Morgan and Lonish Gurung from Year 6 as ambassadors.

The party departed Farnborough station at the crack of dawn on Monday 15th November and travelled by Eurostar to Paris, and RER to Meudon. The staff and children then spent the afternoon in lessons, observing and absorbing the cultural differences and experiences of a French primary school, before the children went off in pairs with their host families.

Lyn Vodden, Senco and teacher with responsibility for Social Moral Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) development at the school commented, “The awe and wonder began for these children on arrival at London Waterloo at dawn, when they were able to see Big Ben and the London Eye lit up. For some of the children, this was their first visit to London. Then faced with a London underground map and a task to navigate from Waterloo to St. Pancras, the children were able to use their geographical skills in a real-life situation. But the pièce de resistance had to be being asked whether we would see fishes in the Channel Tunnel!”

The children also spent Tuesday morning in École du Val, visiting the remaining classes, including Nursery, and even taught an English lesson to some CE2 (Year 4) pupils.

Although several learning outcomes for the children were foreseen, the visit exceeded all expectations: the children commented on:

* The differences in learning styles and attitudes between the two schools;

* The differences whereby parents have to provide stationery and books for Primary children;

* The fact that there is no school on a Wednesday at École du Val;

* The lack of school uniform in France;

* The fact that lunchtime lasts for two hours;

* That children in France are not given different tasks (differentiation) and are expected to complete the same tasks regardless of ability;

* How the Euro coinage system works

* How the French have double-decker trains on their RER

* That French children drink hot chocolate out of a bowl for breakfast

The return journey on the Tuesday afternoon afforded the group the opportunity to stop in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, and to take a scenic tour of Paris using a normal RATP bus to catch a glimpse of the Musée d’Ossay; Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris; the Louvre, and the Hôtel de Ville. After a brief visit to a French café to practise their spoken French in ordering a drink, the children (and staff) returned to Farnborough exhilarated.

Betty’s parting comment summed up the feelings of the group: “That was the best experience I’ve ever had! I can’t wait to go back.”

Mr. Neve’s ended by saying, “If it wasn’t for the generosity of the Rushmoor Twinning Association, Grange Community Junior School PTA and the parents, a visit of such worthwhile cultural and language learning could not have taken place.”

AUTHOR Darren Neve Deputy Headteacher, Grange Community Junior School.

The children have now presented their learning and experiences with the whole school in an assembly.