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Eastern promises on Chinese school visit

PUBLISHED: 14:01 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:53 07 September 2010

EAST met West at William Ellis school last week as the secondary welcomed its first ever visitors from China. A delegation from Yunnan Nationalities High School, which is twinned with William Ellis, came to the Highgate Road secondary in a

Ben McPartland

EAST met West at William Ellis school last week as the secondary welcomed its first ever visitors from China.

A delegation from Yunnan Nationalities High School, which is twinned with William Ellis, came to the Highgate Road secondary in a bid to strengthen their links.

The group included principal Li Dun, assistant head Liu Zong Qun and the school's staff welfare officer Yao Jian Xue. Any communication problems with their English equivalents were overcome with the help of the William Ellis Mandarin teacher, Ms Xiao Yu Shi.

Speaking through the interpreter, Mr Dun said: "My students are from remote areas of the province and they and their parents never really travel even around the area. So they all think having a link with William Ellis but also with London and the UK is unbelievable."

Students from William Ellis have visited their counterparts in China twice before after formal links were forged by the previous headteacher Richard Tanton three years ago.

Last year six language and geography students visited the school in the south western corner of China to look at the area's attempts to go green.

Mr Dun said: "When the students came to visit it really stimulated our pupils on how important it is to protect our environment. Our students were happy because they were discussing the issues with people of their own age. It's better for them than being told by adults.

"British students are not only interested in protecting their own town's environment, they are interested in protecting environments around the world. It stimulated our students to protect the world we are responsible for. The future belongs to them, so they need to understand the importance of the environment."

Although there are clear differences between the two schools, they are not the thousands of miles apart that a map of the world would suggest.

At Yunnan there are around 35 different languages or dialects spoken by the students compared to around 50 at William Ellis.

Both schools focus on the importance of languages, with Mr Dun stressing that learning English was now as important for his students as learning the main Chinese language of Mandarin.

With 1,800 pupils at Yunnan, many of whom board at the school, the number of students in a class can reach 50.

With Mandarin becoming an ever more popular subject at William Ellis, acting headteacher Malcolm Rose said they are looking forward to more visits in the future.

He said: "This is about a shared understanding and an opening of your mind to different life styles and cultures. That's especially true for our students who visited Kunming, where they were incredibly well looked after. The teachers who visited also learned about the differences in the curriculum and what it is like to teach a class of 50 kids."

Mr Dun added: "I want to build stronger links between students and staff and hopefully create an internet site so the students can communicate with each other directly."

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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