North Walsham High School celebrates 41 years of international friendship

International friendships spanning more than four decades will be celebrated this month when North Walsham High School marks what it believes is the UK's longest active Anglo-German exchange partnership.

The past 41 years have seen a marriage, long-lasting friendships and past NWHS exchange students packing off their own children on trips to the Albert Schweitzer Realschule in Mayen.

And on Wednesday North Walsham High will welcome the latest exchange party when 65 German students and five teachers arrive for a four-day visit.

The trip will include a get-together for everyone who has been involved with the exchange over the years, and a musical evening with invited VIPs.

April Vogel, North Walsham High's community arts co-ordinator, said they wanted the word to go out so that former North Walsham pupils now living outside the area had a chance to get along to an informal exchange reunion at the school on the evening of Thursday, March 10.

It will include an ice-breaking quiz, the chance to jam on musical instruments and a video link so that past and present German students, unable to make the trip, can talk to their North Walsham friends. Many students have kept up friendships into adulthood.

Ms Vogel is also very keen to hear of any families boasting three generations with exchange links.

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'We know of several parents and children who have gone on exchanges – but it's just about possible there's also a grandparent out there who took part in the early days. We'd love to find three generations within the same family,' she said.

On March 11 the school is inviting the wider public to an evening in the town's St Nicholas Parish Church where a German student orchestra will perform. Invited VIPs include town mayor Anne Rose, MPs and MEPs, representatives from the German Embassy and the British Council.

Links between the schools began in 1970 when North Walsham High teacher, the late George Howard, organised sports exchange visits. Mr Howard went on to forge his own international special relationship when he married a teacher from the Albert Schweitzer Realschule.

In more recent years the theme has broadened to include language, music and media and part of the latest trip will include work on a 'monumental media project'.

Students from both schools are archiving photos and other material from exchange trips through the years, recording interviews with those involved, and planning another ambitious joint future project, said Ms Vogel.

October 2009 saw the premiere, at The Forum in Norwich, of a vampire film called V Positive made by students from both schools, filmed partly in Transylvania and helped by a third school, in Romania.

'It was a very successful and popular project,' said Ms Vogel. 'Now we want to find something that will also break new ground.

'The kids here are from a rural area and we try to open their eyes to the bigger picture. Most importantly we want them to believe in their own potential.'

l For more information ring the school on 01692 402581 or email