Future of the French exchange threatened by terrorism and 'increasing bureaucracy'

Decrease in the number of foreign exchange trips down to safeguarding issues and 'bureaucratic' hurdles, say schools

Eleanor Busby

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Foreign exchange trips are declining because of the increasing threat of terrorism and a series of "bureaucratic" hurdles, schools have warned.

The number of students going abroad on school trips is falling as it becomes “increasingly difficult” to organise exchanges and persuade heads to leave the UK, it has been claimed.

David Shanks, MFL consultant and leading practitioner at the Harris Federation academy chain, has been trying to increase the number of trips and exchanges but he said there have been “many barriers”.

Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum on modern foreign languages (MFL) this morning, he said: “Some of it being safeguarding. Some of our school principals simply won’t go to Paris now after the terror attacks.

“Exchanges are increasingly difficult in terms of host families. There are all kinds of repercussions for paperwork and CRB checks potentially.”

He added: “I know we are looking at all the possible options of doing trips that don’t necessitate going to the country. It’s a sad state of affairs. Trips are difficult to run in this climate of accountability and responsibility.

Kate Heery, head of modern languages at Cheam High School, in Surrey, agreed that the number of exchange trips had declined “for the same reasons”.

'Significant barriers'to exchange trips

Speaking at the seminar, Mike Buchanan, chair of the headmasters’ and headmistresses’ conference (HMC), called on the Department of Education to address the issue. “The bureaucracy and hurdles in the way of exchange visits is killing them,” he said. 

Mr Buchanan, head of Ashford school, in Kent, added: “The desire to organise trips has not diminished in any way. The issue I think here is that the guidance – for keeping children safe in education – was amended and is less clear.

"So the onus of responsibility falls very heavily on the school to make the checks. Those barriers are really very significant. We have been calling for some clarification of the guidance.”

But Darren Northcott, national official for education at the NASUWT teaching union, believes rising bureaucracy isn’t the issue creating such a barrier.

He said: “I think one of the issues raised is simply the cost in doing so. Many schools are reluctant to charge pupils the kind of costs that have to be levied to make those trips viable."

At Bohunt School in Hampshire, students are offered the opportunity to travel to China for foreign exchange trips – but they fund them themselves. But Rebecca Clark, director of TESLA Teaching School Alliance at the school, is concerned it will become increasingly difficult to run these trips. 

She said: “I do think that there is a future concern about the expensive visas and the impact that might have on being able to run trips post Brexit."

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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