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Schools bid adieu to foreign exchange trips

Foreign language exchange visits have fallen out of favour in many schools, with just 39 per cent now running them, a new survey for the British Council has found.

Thirty-seven per cent of schools that have stopped them cited parental worries about safety, and 36 per cent said they were concerned about taking children out of school during term. Lack of interest from parents and pupils was another major factor.

The survey also revealed stark differences between different kinds of school: less than a third of local authority-maintained schools run host-family exchanges (30 per cent), compared with more than three-quarters of independent schools (77 per cent).

The survey, conducted by YouGov, has prompted the British Council to urge schools to think about introducing exchange programmes.

Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the organisation, said: “For many of us, that first school exchange trip was a real ‘light bulb moment’ that got us excited about learning a language and understanding another culture.

“It’s a shame that these exchanges have fallen victim to things like safety concerns – which can actually be easily remedied with the right steps."

Ian Bauckham, past president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and headteacher at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Kent, said: “Nothing, even extensive internet exposure in our networked age, can replace the experience of being immersed for a short period in a real foreign language environment."

As part of its campaign to encourage exchanges, the British Council has produced a set of free resources for schools to help them organise exchange trips and deal with issues including child protection and risk assessments. It is available to download at

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