Language Exchanges – How?

This is one of three Youthbridge guides to exchanges. Part 1, “German exchanges – Why?”, outlines the tremendous value of such visits in promoting not only language skills but social and life skills, academic excellence, as well as helping to develop valuable personal qualities. This document offers some guidance on how to find a partner school, organise an exchange, and negotiate related issues. Part 3 contains ideas for virtual exchanges.

Useful resources:

  • The British Council Toolkit on organising school exchanges: the British Council has developed an in-depth toolkit (find the link here), which includes: (1) a timeline to help organisers know what to do, and when; (2) a step-by-step checklist; (3) examples of letters and forms required when organising an exchange; (4) a safeguarding checklist. (NB Visas are not required for UK nationals.)
  • Finding a partner school in Germany:
    • UK-German Connection provides support to UK schools looking to set up a link with a school in Germany.
    • The British Council’s Schools Partner Finder Tool aims to help British schools find a partner school abroad.
    • Partnerschulnetz is an initiative of the German Federal Foreign Office that enables British schools to find a partner school in Germany.

Exchanges don’t have to begin with a full-scale visit abroad; email, penfriends, joint online projects and conversations on set topics, for example – all are excellent ways of building relationships between schools and individuals. See our “Part 3: Virtual Exchanges” guide.

  • Guidance on homestay visits (ASCL – see link here). Wherever possible, homestay visits are much to be preferred, as they enable pupils to immerse themselves in the culture and language and to build lasting relationships. They are also much more affordable. If a homestay exchange is not possible, a trip which resembles an exchange can still be organised, i.e. still assigning exchange partners, but with pupils staying in a youth hostel or hotel instead of with a host family. Inevitably, this is considerably more expensive. See also the Appendix (advice from the Anglo-European School) at the end of this document. 

DBS checks – are they necessary?: School managers and would-be organisers are often put off by the perceived need to run DBS checks on host families. According to the ASCL, however, these are recommended rather than required: see the link to their “Guidance on homestay visits” above. Such checks are relatively simple to organise and free of charge. (NB: Other European countries have no direct equivalent to DBS checks). 

  • UK-German Connection (link here) can help with practical advice on all aspects of school and youth exchanges, as well as virtual thematic activities and networks between partner schools, groups and teachers. They also offer a range of programmes and opportunities for UK and German pupils to meet.
  • Funding for exchange visits:
    • UK-German Connection (see link here) offers a range of funding programmes to support UK-German partnership projects and visits:
      • Partnership Visit Fund: staff planning visits between partner schools and youth groups
      • Instant Impact: first-time taster trips to a partner school or youth group
      • Flexible Funding Scheme: small- and large-scale thematic partnership projects and visits
      • School partnership bursaries: to help schools maintain existing links
      • funds joint UK-German activities 
    • The British Council provides grant funding for outward school exchange visits (see here).
    • The Turing Scheme provides funding for short-term placements abroad (see here).
    • Youthbridge (part of the British-German Association) can sometimes help to subsidise school German exchanges. Apply to: youthbridge@britishgermanassociation.org 
    • The Dresden Trust offers subsidies to school groups that wish to visit Dresden during their stay in Germany, and scholarships for individual pupils. Apply to: paulstocker@gmx.co.uk 

Finally, while we do not offer advice on individual travel to and from Germany, UK-German Connection’s travel page includes up-to-date information on travel, entry requirements and links to the relevant authorities. 

We would also like to draw your attention to the excellent, inexpensive Europe-wide Flixbus network: www.flixbus.co.uk; it also operates in the UK.

Appendix – expert advice on DBS checks
The Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, has kindly offered the following advice on DBS checks based on many years of trouble-free experience in a number of European countries:

“With reference to the DBS checks, we risk-assess this with the partner schools; we have a safeguarding agreement with our partner schools which contains a checklist of what has been checked in advance. We provide a checklist of what we would check in the UK and the partner Headteacher signs to say that he or she takes similar responsibility. 
When abroad, we always have staff from our school in the same town as the students who can get to the student at very little notice should any concern be raised, and we always have capacity built into our residential planning should students feel they need to move. Our staff also exchange with the German teachers, so we are staying with the host teacher and can access information quickly if there was ever a concern raised. 
It’s always about mitigating the risk. Nothing is risk-free and DBSs (even in the UK) are only good to the point that someone has not been caught! 
This is slightly different for long term exchanges – 6 weeks or more – where we take out private fostering agreements with the Local Authority safeguarding teams who conduct home visits whilst our exchanges are taking place.”

Oliver St John / Paul Stocker, September 2021

We welcome your feedback and ideas – please e-mail us atyouthbridge@britishgermanassociation.org 

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