Thanks to funding from The Turing Scheme, pupils from Year 11 French spent a week with our partner school, the Lycée Jean Moulin, in the Champagne-Ardennes region of France. The week gave pupils a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in lessons in a French school, to hone their language skills ahead of the upcoming exams, and gain a better understanding of a different culture. The week certainly lived up to expectations!
After a long journey from Burnage Academy by coach, the group arrived at our partner school in the early evening. Our partners had prepared a photo exhibition showing the history of the relationship between our two schools, which dates back to when Mr Morrison worked there in 2008! Pupils were quickly put to the test, introducing themselves in French to lycée staff and students including Mr Lubrano the Headteacher, and Mme Esnault, who has visited Burnage several times on exchanges and is so important in our relationship with the school. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Lycée, before heading to our lakeside accommodation a short bus ride away deep in the Ardennes forest. Watching the sun set over the hills was a beautiful way to end our day of travel!
We woke up ready to head to our first day of lessons at the Lycée after a breakfast of fresh bread and cereal. In the morning, we completed our first joint activities. After some ice-breakers, we collaborated to create two art displays – l’environnement and vivre ensemble. This was an opportunity for both sets of pupils to swap ideas, vocabulary and perspectives on two crucial projects, with our pupils using the Manchester Bee to discuss the idea of living and working together. Next, we listened to presentations in French from some of the teachers and pupils about different projects they had completed about the Holocaust and World War Two. It was moving to hear about a labour camp near to the school, and pupils demonstrated excellent comprehension skills in listening and reading about the work, which was entirely in 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!” Subhan.
In the afternoon, we separated into smaller groups. After spending some time in the excellent maison des lycéens and socialising with our French peers, some pupils enjoyed a language lesson with the FLE department, joining pupils at the lycée who are learning French too. They completed reading, speaking and writing activities, learning about chef Mory Sacko. The culinary theme continued, as another group enjoyed a patisserie lesson with the lycée’s catering teacher. They made éclairs and choux pastries, as well as the cream filling for a superb millefeuille. Before dinner, our friends from the lycée, including M. Lubrano, had prepared a welcome party for us, with amazing food and drinks – including the ones we had helped make earlier! The millefeuille was adorned with a wild boar, and a Manchester bee – the emblems of our two respective areas. We were officially welcomed with a speech from Mr Lubrano, and Subhan and Marawan presented him with a gift from Mr Harrison. We were certainly ready for bed after a long day!
“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.” Nawaf.
Wednesday started with our usual excellent breakfast, and then a sports tournament at the lycée with our new partners. After mixed table tennis and basketball games, it was time for the England v France football game, where Burnage avenged England’s defeat to France at the World Cup! After lunch, and more time spent with our new friends (singing together at lunch was one highlight!) we went as a joint group to the nearby town of Charleville-Mezières, to meet local officials.
“The people are 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.” Athar.
We were welcomed to the town hall by Armelle Lequeux, who is one of the Deputy Mayors of the town. There is an incredible link between Manchester and Charleville-Mezières, which makes these visits more special. Following the First World War, the town of Mezières was badly damaged, and the city of Manchester fund-raised to rebuild it. To this day, the hospital in the town is known as Manchester, recognising the part our city played in rebuilding it. The Deputy Mayor spoke at length about our school, the lycée, and the history of the two. It was an honour to see that they had gone to so much trouble to find out all about us. We presented Mme Lequeux with a gift from the Leader of Manchester City Council, Bev Craig, as a thank you for their hospitality and to recognise the relationship between our cities.
“Adapting to French life was amazing and meeting new people was incredible to experience and will live with me forever. It has boosted my confidence in speaking, and now I feel like I can easily improve my knowledge of French.” Yousaf
Thursday morning brought an early departure from the Ardennes, as we headed to Paris to experience the culture and history of one of the most famous cities in the world! Mrs Cottrill’s knowledge of the city, along with Mme Esnault, meant we enjoyed a brilliant walking tour to see Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées, and the Louvre. We were fortunate enough to be able to go into the Louvre thanks to our French partners, and even saw the famous Mona Lisa!
It was certainly an interesting day to be in Paris, as there were several protests breaking out in the evening as we were leaving for our hotel. We were glad to get to bed safely but experiencing French politics in such a way was certainly memorable for the boys!
Friday meant it was time to leave, but not before we experienced more history and French culture. In the morning, we went to the 14th Century Château de Vincennes, known for having the tallest fortified central tower in Europe. On our way back to Calais to take the ferry to England, we visited Wancourt British Cemetery, where nearly 2000 soldiers who died in the First World War are buried. It was another emotional and poignant memory that will live on long after we returned home.
“It really was a fantastic opportunity for students to practice the French language in a real setting, meeting French-speaking students and sharing experiences and cultures,” according to Ms Doyle, who travelled with the group along with Mr Morrison, Mrs Cottrill, and Mr Raven.
“It took pupils out of their comfort zone and made them ‘think’ in French,” added Mrs Cottrill. “They experienced French culture in different forms including education, cuisine, art, history and lifestyle – memories to last a lifetime!”