Channel hopping to explore the moon

Day trips across the Channel could soon be on the timetable for teachers from Folkestone and Boulogne.

And pupils in the English port, even those as young as five, could be learning about geography, science and art in French if discussions this week between schools in the two Channel towns bear fruit.

John Parson, head of Christ Church primary school in Folkestone, whose idea it is, said: "The earlier a child is exposed to language the better. I could see four or five-year-olds going across and having a day in school with French classes. They would pick up the vocabulary without a thought."

The aim is to get the immersion classes under way next year. The scheme would start with language teachers travelling across the Channel to take French and English lessons in each other's schools. Then schoolchildren - the youngest accompanied by parents as well as staff - would take day trips to be taught non-language subjects in the foreign tongue.

The scheme would cost around Pounds 50,000 to set up and Pounds 25,000 to run each year, with funding likely to come from Europe and the possibility of help from local councils and Hoverspeed, which runs the Folkestone-Boulogne Seacat.

Four schools in Folkestone - Christ Church, George Spurgen, Stella Maris and St Eanswythe - are interested in the idea and nine French schools are keen.

"It is good for French pupils to speak English on any subject to show them that English people do not come from the moon," said Veronique Dewisme, head of Louis Blanc primary in Boulogne.

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