Fortismere School and Highgate Primary School lead way with Mandarin lessons

The official opening of the new Mandarin classroom at Highgate Primary School

The official opening of the new Mandarin classroom at Highgate Primary School - Credit: Archant

A Muswell Hill school is one of the first in the country to be selected by the government to try and fast track students towards being fluent in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.

Fortismere School will be taking part in the Department for Education’s national Mandarin Excellence Programme, which will see pupils studying the language for eight hours a week over the course of the next four years.

Headteacher Helen Glass said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to help launch this programme which adds a special dimension to our modern language teaching at Fortismere.

“Students that have already been learning Mandarin say how much they enjoy it, and we are excited to see this work develop over the coming years.”

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and schools standards MP Nick Gibbs believes it is important for young people to master it in order for the UK to remain globally competitive in the future.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “A high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese will become increasingly important in our globally competitive economy.

“As part of our drive to extend opportunity, we want to give young people the opportunity to study the language and to acquire fluency in both spoken and written Mandarin.

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“The programme helps us achieve this, offering intensive study in the language which will not only be personally enriching for students, but will also give them a significant advantage when they enter the world of work.”

Highgate Primary School is also getting on the act after opening a new Mandarin classroom as part of its commitment to teaching students about Chinese culture.

Children from nursery through to Year 6 are taught Mandarin and it is one of a handful of primary schools to be awarded the Confucius Classroom status after being recognised as a centre of excellence for the teaching of Chinese cultural studies.

In celebration of its new status the school held a celebration day last week with food from Yien in Muswell Hill and music from Tang Huan who played classical Chinese music on the Guzheng – a long stringed instrument which is plucked like a harp.

Rhoda Pennington, who is one of three Mandarin teachers at the school, said: “I am very proud to have hosted the opening of our beautiful new classroom.

“Our Reception and Year 1 children were thrilled to be able to share their Mandarin songs with our special guests.”

Earlier this year the school bagged first prize in a challenge set by the Chinese Embassy to come up with a short performance film on the theme of mythological figure, the Monkey King.

The school also runs a Chinese calligraphy club, Kung Fu and a Mandarin class for parents.