Students at Meadow Park School will start participating in an innovative language programme that has helped more than 8,000 pupils since 2016 to get on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

The Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme gives pupils an unprecedented opportunity when it comes to language learning. The programme is delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council.

From September, students will spend an average of eight hours a week studying Mandarin to help them reach a high level of language ability. This is significantly more time than most schools spend on languages.

The programme includes a two-week residential intensive-learning course in China for Year 9 pupils, with a strong focus on language and culture, which aims to build pupils’ confidence and resilience. The course is currently being delivered virtually, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The British Council has previously found that nearly two thirds of language students at university were inspired to study a language degree because of an international exchange trip whilst at school.

Bernadette Pettman, Headteacher, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for our students to be part of a highly acclaimed international programme which will develop students’ Mandarin language acquisition and cultural understanding. This will provide students with the language skills, experience and confidence to support them in their future studies and careers.

“Along with other schools in the Finham Park Multi Academy Trust, our students will have the opportunity to take part in a range of Mandarin learning and cultural experiences, both in the UK and in China. I was fortunate to be part of the first Mandarin Excellence Programme visit to Chengdu, China in 2018 with Finham Park School and can vouch first hand for the benefits this unique immersive experience provides.

“I am very excited by this opportunity and look forward to welcoming our very first Mandarin Excellence Programme cohort within our new Year 7 students in September 2022.”

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world and is recognised as a valuable skill for young people in the UK to acquire. Research by the British Council found that Mandarin is the second most important foreign language for the UK’s influence on the global stage.

Katharine Carruthers, Director, UCL IOE Confucius Institute for Schools said: “There are now around 8,000 young people in 75 schools on track to fluency in Mandarin thanks to the Mandarin Excellence Programme. The first cohort of students who began learning Mandarin through MEP completed GCSEs in summer 2021 achieving very impressive results. This year we are delighted to welcome Meadow Park School to the programme to give their young learners the chance to learn Mandarin to an advanced level.”

Scott McDonald, Chief Executive British Council, said: 
“The Mandarin Excellence Programme is helping thousands of young people in England to develop the language expertise and intercultural skills which will open the door to a whole world of study and career opportunities. Mandarin is one of the most important languages for young people in the UK to learn right now. Not only does it lead to a greater understanding of China’s people and culture, it builds stronger connections and mutual trust between our two countries, which is essential for future business, trade and prosperity.”

English class