An exchange with a unique initiative

Hall Mead School and Paulsen Gymnasium have been partners for over 36 years. Teachers at both schools shared the history of their partnership as part of our 15-year anniversary celebrations.

Who: Hall Mead School, Upminster & Paulsen Gymnasium, Berlin

Initially a traditional exchange

We began in 1984 as a traditional exchange, led by the then Head of languages at Hall Mead and an English teacher from Paulsen Gymnasium. Students were hosted by the partner school, enjoying a combination of in-school experiences, time with families, sightseeing and social occasions. Many long term friendships were formed between students and members of staff. The Headteachers at both schools, Dr Werner in Berlin and Mr Wunderley in Upminster, were both very strongly committed to this venture and became close personal friends. Over time, the range of activities increased; for example, Hall Mead’s music department created the exchange party from orchestra and choir members and presented several performances at Paulsen, whose students reciprocated during their visits to the UK.

1997: Paulsen staff including Dr Werner join Hall Mead Teachers for a social evening.
1995 – 50th anniversary of VE day: Paulsen party plants bushes in the Hall Mead commemorative garden.

Adding to the programme

In the late 1990s the partnership took a major step forward with the introduction of two highly original, perhaps even unique, initiatives. Dr Werner decided that one of Paulsen’s teaching groups would specialise in English and during a boat trip on the Wannsee, he asked Mr Wunderly if it would be possible for this group to spend four weeks each year at Hall Mead following the English curriculum. This meant adding four Paulsen students to each of Hall Mead’s eight Year 9 teaching groups. They would be taught in English throughout and would have lessons in subjects that they did not study in Germany, for example DT and PSCHE.

The level of cooperation, understanding and trust required between the two schools was considerable but such was the status of the partnership by then that staff and parents at both ends helped overcome any difficulties.

At that time, Hall Mead’s Year 10 students undertook three weeks of work experience in the UK. Mr Wunderly asked Dr Werner if he could arrange placements for some students with organisations in Berlin. Without hesitation, the response was positive and Hall Mead students took up the great opportunity to work in companies such as Siemens, Daimler Chrysler, and Deutsche Bank.

2019 Paulsen Immersed class at Hall Mead
Hall Mead pupils during Berlin Work Experience.

Continuing the connection

These two initiatives continue to this day, many years after the retirement of the two heads and now under the oversight of new colleagues at both schools. New friendships between the two schools continue to grow.The Hall Mead Work Experience trip has also further developed into a joint learning experience. Hall Mead pupils working in Paulsen now work with the Year 10 students from Paulsen Immersed class on joint projects, looking at similarities and differences between the two countries to discover how much we share.

Post lockdown and Brexit, we will get these going again and continue to build partnerships and friendships between the schools!

Paul Cotier and Stefan Kloppe-Langer, teachers at Hall Mead school and Paulsen Gymnasium

This article is part of the UK-German Connection 15-year Anniversary Challenge: Capture Your Connection, which invited schools and individuals to share their UK-German stories.