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Claremont High School Academy

Wish you were here

Claremont High School had a truly international feel this past month as we welcomed both French and German ‘pen pals’ to our community  

The Modern Foreign Languages Department knows the importance of experiential learning – that the best way to learn another language is to use it in conversation with native speakers, ideally in the country of origin or, failing that, through a cultural exchange. That’s exactly what happened on 11th and 20th June when Claremont played host to first our French cousins, then our German ones.  

More than forty French students, aged 14 and 15, visited the school on 11th June, having lunch and socializing with forty-four of our Year 9 and 10 students. This was the first time the ‘pen pals’ had met one another, and they will continue to exchange e-mails throughout the year. The initiative is in response to Year 10 students expressing the desire to meet French teenagers and practice their speaking-skills with people their own age. Year 9 students were equally enthusiastic about the idea, so they joined in.  

‘As I didn't get the chance to take them to France when they were in KS3, this is the next best thing,’ explains Ms Grandjean, Head of French and Acting Head of Languages. ‘They get to use their skills in real situations with real people and discover a bit more about the culture.’  

The French students are currently in Year 9 at a private Catholic school in Lesneven, a small town in Brittany. They have extra English lessons and some subjects, such as History and Geography, are also taught in English. In France, secondary school ends after final exams in Year 10, then students graduate to high school, from years 11 to 13, where they study for the baccalaureate exam.  

Their visit made a lasting impression on the Claremont students.  

'I wish they could stay longer!’ said Amran Saifuddin in Year 9. ‘I really want to go and visit my pen pal in France and see his life.'  

Bansi Patel in Year 10 also found it a rewarding experience. ‘My pen pal is so nice. She brought me pictures of her town and she told me about some French artists that she likes.’  

And their French cousins clearly felt the same.  

‘I got so lucky with my pen pal - we both love football!’ said Paul Gabriel. ‘I really want to study in the UK, so it would be nice to see him again and become friends.'  

In terms of the thorny question, ‘Which is the better school?’ Anna Louise from France was in no doubt: ‘Claremont students are so lucky - they have lots of things to do art and DT with. I wish we had more things like that in our school!’  

Similarly, over the past year, Ms Heather’s Year 9 German class has been corresponding with students from a school near Berlin. Both groups of pupils have exchanged letters and been in contact via social media. On 20th June, the German students visited Claremont, spending the day with their English pen pals. Together, they visited various lessons throughout the day and socialised after school to get to know one another.   

‘The purpose of the visit was to encourage the students to open their minds and put their language to actual proper use,’ explains Ms Heather. ‘They were supposed to speak sometimes in English and sometimes in German.’   

The Claremont students clearly enjoyed meeting their German counterparts.  

‘The pen pals were nice and respectful and knew a lot of English,’ said Hasnain Jaffer. ‘It was very easy to talk to and get to know them.’  

Layla Kadhim agrees: ‘My pen pal was really nice and was asking lots of questions, curious to know about our school and life in London.’  

Reflecting on their experience, the German pupils were struck by the uniform Claremont students have to wear, the length of the lessons – shorter than theirs – and the greater discipline at the school.  

‘The day was an interesting experience in a positive way,’ said Paul and Oskar. ‘We were impressed by the people – students and teachers – the teaching methods and the school building. Some subjects were easy, and some were more difficult compared to ours. In general, it was a big difference to our German school.’  

 So it’s ‘Au revoir’ and ‘Auf wiedersehen’ for now, but it won’t be long until the pen pals are saying ‘Hello!’ to one another again...