A class of seven-year-olds from St Richards Catholic Primary School in Dover enjoyed a day out with an international twist when they were transported to France on a P&O Ferries ship to meet with their counterparts at Ecole Notre Dame de Calais last month.
The children had first met in November 2018 at the launch of P&O Ferries’ Sail with Santa initiative, where the two classes were invited onboard to meet Father Christmas and one of his reindeers, who were then special guests on weekend sailings in the lead up to Christmas. Despite the language barrier, the children hit it off, and the resulting connection between the two schools led to this month’s trip across the channel, provided by P&O Ferries.
During their sailing across the channel, the 21 pupils from St Richard’s were given a guided tour of the ship and enjoyed trying on P&O Ferries’ various uniforms, including the chief engineer’s hat, helmets and hi-vis jackets. The children were further entertained with a quiz about the vessel, where they were tested with questions like ‘how many lorries can be loaded onboard’ and ‘how many tonnes of chips are cooked in a year’.
The children arrived at Ecole Notre Dame de Calais in time to share lunch with their French friends, and with no hint of language barriers, went out to play with the whole school. The children’s’ French and English speaking skills that they had practiced in the lead-up to the reunion were put to the test through activities organised by Ecole Notre Dame. ‘Find a friend’ proved particularly popular, where each child was given the name of someone in the opposite class, and they had to find that person by asking questions in the language they were learning.
While improving their language skills and building friendships was a key element to the day, the experience also provided the children with the opportunity to learn about a new culture. St Richard’s pupils were interested to learn that all French school children eat lunch at home every day with their parents, while the French pupils were intrigued about St Richard’s uniform, not having one of their own. The day concluded with a guided tour of Ecole Notre Dame for St Richard’s.
Jacqueline Burns, Business Transformation and Communications Manager at P&O Ferries, said: “We’re thrilled to have been able to facilitate St Richard’s trip across the channel and it was fantastic to see how excited the children were to visit their friends in Calais. It was a joy to hear that they got on so well after meeting for the first time last year aboard the Spirit of Britain, and we hope that we can continue to support the special relationship between the two schools.”
Mrs Hannah Waller, Teacher at St Richard’s, said: “We’re very grateful to P&O Ferries for supporting the relationship between our two schools and making this wonderful exchange trip happen. The children learned a great deal, both onboard the Spirit of France and at Ecole Notre Dame, and we hope that our close bond will continue long into the future.”
Finally, Madame Fabienne Evrard, Head Teacher at Ecole Notre Dame, added: “We were very happy to welcome the children from St Richard’s to our school and it was great to see the children renew their friendships. Following the initial meeting, children at Ecole Notre Dame now start learning English from the age of two, and it’s brilliant that through our schools’ connection, we can build on this and allow our children to put these important skills into practice.”