Teachers from Folkestone and Madrid meet to discuss their school exchange ©

Folkestone Girls School

In early 2023, Nairet Morales Sosa, MFL - Teacher / Director of Global Dimension at The Folkestone School for Girls, led a group of students and teachers to Madrid in Spain for an exchange. This blog is about her experiences, how the partnership started and how she prepared for the exchange visit. 

We started planning our partnership exchange in 2019 which seems, gosh, ages ago. We went to a seminar in Madrid that the British Council put together with the DfE and that's what gave us the confidence to do an exchange. 

The seminar was amazing and they said from the beginning all the things that you need to look into: the intercultural understanding, the safeguarding paperwork, the DBS checks, remember that Spain thinks this way and the UK thinks this way and we have to merge them both. They looked at everything in detail.

We visited the school on the last day of the Madrid seminar and it was a near perfect match, a school that has the same values and vision and hopes for the future, for the students and the world.

We had big plans and ideas and then the pandemic happened, but we kept trying to make the exchange happen. And now we have. The welcome we received in Spain... I started crying! I had been trying since 2019 to make the exchange happen and then to see the students all with their own little family. It's just amazing to see how much everybody gets out of it and I think the effects are going to be seen for years to come.

There were a lot of schools saying that you cannot do homestay exchanges, that it is not allowed in this country because of safeguarding. I was like, “no, no, it is allowed”. And that's why I think the seminar in Madrid really gave us the confidence to go ahead with it.

From the parent's perspective, so many parents came and said “when I was younger, I went on a homestay exchange and it changed my life and it’s stayed with me forever. Why don't we do them more?” And yes, that's the question. Why? Why don't we do them more?

School exchange planning forum ©

Folkestone Girls School


I looked at the different safeguarding elements that we had to take into account. I translated the paperwork into Spanish so their parents and the teachers that didn't speak English could access it as well. The first time I mentioned it, the Spanish school were asking, “what does safeguarding mean?” It's very different to us. But you know, it's just lovely because they have taken on board a lot of things that we do. 

Once we selected the families, I did meetings in our school for the families and also for the Spanish families online in case they have any questions. And then after that we put them in contact. 

I put a form together for them to tell us about their hobbies, what they like, what they dislike, what they like in school, what they want to do, if they have any allergies, things like that. Obviously, there were some that were allergic to pets so I couldn't put somebody that was allergic to cats with somebody that had a cat in the house. A lot of things to take into account. But once that's in place, I matched them, looking at the likes and dislikes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes positive and negative attract. It’s not an exact science. But they got together, they started video calling each other.

We did DBS checks for all the families. That put a lot of pressure on our personnel manager who had to do every single one of them. The families paid for it, but because they are seen as volunteers, it was only £14 per person and it was part of the cost of the trip. 

Before we went, we created videos for our students to take to their school and the Spanish school did the same for us. We did all about our country, our school, we shared it with them and they shared with us. The students that came here put assemblies together for the whole school to show them about the exchange and what they had learned about both countries and similarities.

It is hard work, trips are hard work. But once you do it, the benefits cannot be exaggerated. 


We planned everything on our own and we kept the costs very low so we could offer access to disadvantaged students, to carers as well, to students that are first generation to possibly go on to higher education. 

And in the end, the trips didn't cost very much, around £200 so they were quite accessible.

The British families paid for when the Spanish students came to us, and when we were there, the Spanish family paid for everything. What I put in all the paperwork is, you will treat them as if they are your own child. Whatever you do for your child, you do for your exchange student, which is exactly what the families did.

You can read about the group’s time in Madrid and the impact the visit had on the students in chapter 2.

See also