Collége Jean Mermoz is situated in the town of Faches-Thumesnil, just outside of Lille in Northern France, and has worked with pupils and staff at Whitley Academy since 2012.
The visit was to continue the collaboration projects between the two schools, ranging from work on protecting local environments, introducing pupils to new language and culture, and commemorating the events of both World Wars.
The exchange complements the International Status of Whitley Academy, with additional link schools in Japan, France and South Africa.
The day of the visit
At the start of the day, everyone settled down in the Auditorium, and despite a few initial nerves, pupils soon began to settle down and get comfortable awaiting the arrival of their French pen pals.
At 9am, fifty four students from Collége Jean Mermoz and their four teachers arrived; they were shown to the Auditorium where the day started off with an introduction speech from Mr Purslow.
Students were given some snapshots of life between the two cities, Coventry and Lille, then came the time for an exchange of presents from both schools. The teachers presented each other with art work that symbolised the two cities of Coventry and Lille.
At the end of the morning, the audience was split into four groups, with pupils pairing off with their pen pals to start collaborative lessons. In these lessons, pupils were encouraged to sit with pen pals, communicating in both French and in English. After the lesson, it was time for a lunch break; everyone went to the canteen for food and then to get changed for some outdoors activities.
It was a lovely sunny day in Coventry - pupils were split into small groups and played frisbee. Everyone was smiling and pupils got to know each other better through teamwork.
After a quick break to get changed, it was time to head to the City Centre, where the Collége Jean Mermoz students were shown around Coventry. Highlights included the Cathedral, the Statue of Lady Godiva and the Transport Museum. Many pupils had the opportunity to wander around town with the French students, allowing everyone to make some fond memories.
At first it was difficult to communicate, but through perseverance students did their very best. When they couldn't understand each other, they resorted to using hand gestures and actions, making everyone laugh and become more comfortable. Many French students went shopping for souvenirs and clothes around the city, as well as getting some food. As the pupils spent more time together, closer bonds were made, and everyone had a great time together despite some initial language barriers.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience for both the Whitley Academy and Collége Jean Mermoz pupils.
Many thanks to the visiting pupils, to the staff involved; and to the student reporters with Miss Nguyen. Au Revoir!
Watch our video about the visit -