Photos of Wharefedale and Outreau
Students shared photos of the place where they live to spark questions

This is the story of two schools, one in the Yorkshire Dales in England and one in the north of France.

We spoke to Anita Bell, head of languages, and Vicky Cooke, French teacher, at Upper Wharfedale school in Threshfield, Yorkshire and Estelle Sanchez, English teacher at collège Albert Camus in Outreau, northern France. They told us about their schools partnership and the projects that their students have worked on together.

Vicky Cooke: I first met Estelle when she came to Leeds and then to Threshfield and I was struck about how similar we are. That's what you find with languages teachers, worldwide they are very similar sorts of people.  

When I did an exchange when I was at school, I remember thinking, you know, this isn't just a thing I'm learning at school. This is a real thing. I'm not sure why you would be a languages teacher if you didn't want to pass that on.  

Yes, there’s a bit extra work involved. Sometimes it's tricky making the two systems work together. It is important to find time-efficient ways to fit it into our curriculum because we have to publish our curriculum, we can't change it during the year. 

There's a bit of thinking involved in where does that fit and how does it work and when are these children going to do this and how are we going to get it done? But they're not insurmountable problems. As long as both sides are motivated to make it work, it will work. 

Support within the school 

Anita Bell: The support from the senior leadership team is invaluable. In recent years we have had lots of enthusiasm for helping us to find projects to do with our students. That has really been brilliant. Just the will to try. There isn't much finance to help with projects. But we've found ways, we've raised money. We're still raising bits of money to help us with our trip to France this summer. I’m looking at trying to get some Turing funding to continue things in the future. 

Vicky Cooke: Without our senior leadership and our head teacher saying yes, go for it, please try, I don't think we’d have got very far.  

Estelle Sanchez: It’s the same for us, exactly. They are really enthusiastic and supportive and it's a way for them to promote the school as well, saying we have exchanges with a foreign country. They really support that type of project and they're really enthusiastic. 

The other teachers are really curious. We are five English teachers in my school and, for example for the Christmas cards, I asked them, would you like to be involved in our Christmas cards exchange? They said yes. I don't want to give them a lot of work but, if they are interested in some projects, they are willing to get involved, they are not reluctant to take part in the project. 

As for the parents, I had the chance to meet some of them during teachers - parents’ meetings and they are really positive about the exchange. I wanted to know if some of them would like to welcome English students at home, they said yes. So, they're positive and involved in that type of partnership. 

Four students work together with photos of Yorkshire
Students at collège Albert Camus work on a project about Yorkshire based on photos sent by students at Upper Wharfedale school

Vicky Cooke: We first got in touch with each other through one of our geography teachers via the British Council. He'd been looking at the International School Award and he asked if anybody wanted a link? And we said yes, we'd like French speaking, but can you find somebody who's in northern France so that we can easily get there because we're in Yorkshire. He said, this one is just south of Lille. I reckoned that was the perfect location.  

It was literally based on geographic location.  

Vicky Cooke: As for the future of the partnership, I think more of the same. And perhaps exchange home visits. That’s what we're heading towards. We're a village school, but it'd be really nice to say, “the French are coming this week”. 

Anita Bell: I would like it to be something that's part of our school culture. I know that takes a few years to embed, we're looking years ahead. But that's what I would like, that we are connected to people who speak that language. 

Vicky Cooke: But I think we've been lucky, haven't we, Estelle?  

Estelle Sanchez: It's so easy to work with Vicky and Anita, we get along very well. I truly mean it, for me they are not just colleagues. We were very lucky because we managed to find each other. 

Upper Wharfedale school and College Albert Camus came together to start an international schools partnership, as part of the British Council LEEDS 2023 School Partnerships project with Lille during LEEDS 2023 year of culture. 

You can read more about the partnership and the projects the students worked on in our blog Leeds – Lille international school partnership: chapter 2: ideas for successful projects