Student exchange programme celebrates 50th anniversary

A group of North Walsham High School students outside Mayen town hall in 1970. Photo: North Walsham

A group of North Walsham High School students outside Mayen town hall in 1970. Photo: North Walsham High School - Credit: Archant

A student exchange programme with Germany thought to be the oldest still in operation in the UK will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Friday.

The first group of students to leave North Walsham High School for the Albert Scheitzer Realschule i

The first group of students to leave North Walsham High School for the Albert Scheitzer Realschule in Mayen on September 18, 1970. Photo: North Walsham High School - Credit: North Walsham High School

North Walsham High School swapped its first group of students with the Albert Scheitzer Realschule in Mayen, Germany on September 18, 1970, but its latest exchange 50 years on had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

The schools had also hoped to hold a celebration in North Walsham with special guests, a buffet and an exhibition, and directors are also hoping to get some of Norwich City’s German stars involved in the celebrations, which have been moved to 2021.

A commemorative book detailing the history of the exchange is set to be released with a foreword from German comedian Henning Wehn.

North Walsham High School chair of directors, Russell Solly, said: “We’re starting to look into doing virtual exchanges and I’ve got a conference booked with German staff so we can at least start arranging something and move forward.

The Atrium at North Walsham High School.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Atrium at North Walsham High School.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC


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“The exchange has been in existence for 50 years and we believe it to be the longest running between two schools still functioning - we’ve been exchanging students longer than we’ve been in the EU.

“Several former participants are still in contact with their exchange partners and many deep and long lasting friendships have been made.

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“The strength of the exchange has always been the friendship established between families, with a prime example being my own grandson’s godfather being my son’s exchange partner.”

Mr Solly said the exchange has changed a lot in 50 years with students now staying in hotels rather than their partners’ homes.

Students staying in Germany have been treated to boat trips on the Rhine, visits to the Nurburgring and trips to the top of Cologne cathedral down the years, while visiting German students have been taken on bus tours of Norwich and become involved in art and community projects.

Previous anniversaries have seen the school receive a letter from then prime minister Tony Blair, congratulating the schools and a visit from the Realschule Band who played a concert in St Nicholas Church, while this year it received a letter from minister of state for school standards, Nick Gibb.

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