The British Council wants schools to send their students on exchanges to encourage more of them to study languages and gain international experience.
Overseas exchanges used to be a common practice for many schools, but now only 39 per cent of British secondary schools run traditional exchange trips involving a stay with a host family, according to research by YouGov.
Safety concerns and issues with taking students out of school during term-time were among the reasons quoted by schools for no longer offering the trips.
As part of its campaign, the British Council has produced a set of free resources for schools to help them organise exchange trips and deal with issues including child protection and risk-assessments.
The research, which was commissioned by the British Council, also found that less than a third of local authority-maintained schools run these exchanges (30 per cent), compared with more than three quarters of independent schools (77 per cent).
Furthermore, only 27 per cent of secondary schools run other kinds of international exchange trips, such as those involving hotel stays.
Even virtual exchanges are unusual – with only 16 per cent of secondary schools holding video-conferences with partner schools abroad.
At the same time, a second survey by the British Council, of university language students, found that 62 per cent said it was an international exchange that had influenced their decision to do a language degree.
Vicky Gough, schools advisor at the British Council, said: “For many of us, that first school exchange trip was a real ‘lightbulb moment’ that got us excited about learning a language and understanding another culture. It’s a shame that these exchanges have fallen victim to things like safety concerns – which can actually be easily remedied with the right steps.
“As we seek to tackle a national language crisis and a lack of international skills among young people entering the world of work, reviving school exchanges is vital – and we’ll do everything we can to help schools make this possible.”
The campaign’s resources are available to download at https://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/content/get-started-planning-your-own-school-exchange