22nd July 2021: Lord Faulkner of Worcester:

My contribution to the debate on Cultural and Education Exchanges.

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Earl on securing this debate. I am going to speak about school trips from abroad. My younger daughter is a schoolteacher at a small rural lycée in the Sarthe region. She has lived there nearly 28 years and has a French husband and three children, who have British and French nationality. As a result of Brexit, she has become a French citizen.

Every other year, travelling by Eurostar, my daughter used to lead a party of her 16 to 18 year-old students to visit London. There were never fewer than 21 in the party; the largest group had 43. Typically, they stayed for five nights at a youth hostel in Canada Water. Toggle showing location ofColumn 95GCDuring the week, they visited all the major museums in London, the Cabinet War Rooms, Roman London, the Houses of Parliament, Camden Town, the National Gallery and much more. A lot of what they visited reminded them of the common history and close links of friendship between the people of France and the United Kingdom. I asked my daughter: what was the value of the visits? She said, “It’s hard to put into words how much it gives them. So many have barely left the region. So many have never taken the train before. The majority come from simple backgrounds with few opportunities for travel. Going to London is just such an amazing experience for them”.

The visits have now stopped and French schools are turning to Ireland instead as an English-speaking destination. A major problem is the British refusal to accept the French identity card, as almost none of the students holds a passport. The disappearance of the European health insurance card from the UK is another major obstacle.

Open-mindedness, cultural and linguistic enrichment, the building of character and increased independence and confidence: that is how my daughter describes what the visits give her pupils. The UK is now barely offered as a destination, so future generations of international pupils are being deprived of a wonderful opportunity. This is also the case for European and British students, who of course can no longer participate in the wonderful Erasmus programme.

A link to to the full debate can be found here