The status of China as a rising global superpower with one of the largest growing economies in the world makes speaking Mandarin Chinese a very attractive asset in a global market. The opportunity to learn the most spoken language in the world is only offered in around 8% of State schools. We are very proud to be amongst one of 80 schools in the country to offer the opportunity to follow the ‘Mandarin Excellence Programme’ (MEP). This initiative aims to meet the huge demand for fluent speakers of Mandarin in order to benefit from the foreign investment and economic cooperation afforded by our relationship with one of the most exciting and dynamic civilisations in the world.
Mandarin has been identified as one of the most important languages for the UK’s future prosperity and the Department for Education (DfE), the British Council, University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Education (IOE) work in partnership with the Anglo European to develop what has proved to be a ground breaking, world-class programme of language learning. Mrs Gee, Headteacher, chairs the MEP Headteachers’ Strategic Group which steers the programme’s development and future expansion.
The MEP is a visionary programme which aims to create truly fluent learners of Mandarin who are passionate not only about the language but also the history, culture and society of China. In this way, students who choose this programme will be completely immersed both in the classroom and beyond in Mandarin supported by our nationally recognised Chinese Languages Department. As a location of the regional Jiangsu Resource Centre and being a Confucius Classroom, our school offers an education in Mandarin Chinese that is second to none.
What does studying the MEP mean?
Students who would like to follow the MEP will apply before starting at the school and face a rigorous selection process which ensures that the cohort is a reflection of the diversity of our intake. Students will then be put in registration group 7C and commit to the learning of Mandarin throughout the KS3 and KS4 careers at the school.
All students on the MEP receive four hours of teacher-taught classroom lessons each week . Additionally students will have access to: enrichment activities, teacher guided self-study and regular intensive study courses (in China and the UK) to ensure that they are truly fluent by the end of Y11.
Students may choose to progress to A Level or IB Standard Chinese, and further HSK Levels 4 and 5 will follow for those who pursue the study of this language in Sixth Form. Many of our students will choose to attend University in China and/or pursue work opportunities either there or in a Mandarin speaking environment.
Our visits and enrichment programme for the MEP is outstanding. We have a multi-disciplinary approach to the learning of Mandarin and use our extra-curricular activity time to encourage students to access Mandarin through the whole curriculum.
The study of the history and culture of China is carried out through visiting museums, galleries and sites of cultural importance in the UK in conjunction with a programme run by the University of Cambridge.
We also teach Chinese art, drama and music as well as focusing on the gastronomy by learning how to prepare and serve Chinese cuisine and behave at meals in China. We further engage with ancient Chinese traditions such as calligraphy and the famous ‘dragon dance’. One of the foremost events of our calendar is the Chinese New Year which gives us the opportunity to share the celebration of all things Chinese across the school through Assemblies and activities in each year groups both in lessons and at lunch time.
“I would like to use Mandarin in the future as I want to become an Entrepreneur. Being able to speak Mandarin would help me elevate my business and allow me access to Chinese markets. Having the ability to speak Mandarin is a unique skill to have that is of increasing value in the 21st century.”Lola, Year 10 student
Part of our commitment to the MEP is to ensure that students have an immersive experience of Mandarin each year that they are in school apart from Y11 when they will be undertaking their GCSE.
In Year 7, students have a dedicated whole week of Chinese enrichment which includes a visit to the Chinese exhibition at the British Museum and China Town where the class have the opportunity to share an authentic Chinese meal together.
In Year 8, the students are invited to attend our flagship two week study visit to China. This visit is heavily subsidised by the MEP and our students have been fortunate enough to travel to Beijing, staying in residence at the University and experiencing a range of cultural visits including the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and Silk Street where they could practice their language in context. In many ways, this visit is the jewel in the crown of the MEP programme as it open the hearts of minds of students to the reality of China creating a passion and engagement which underpins their future ambitions.
During our trip to China in Year 8 we got to experience Chinese culture first hand and were able to use our previous Chinese skills to converse with natives. After travelling around the beautiful country seeing sights like the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, we found motivation to keep working hard learning this language.Danna, Year 11 student
“The MEP visit to Beijing was a truly fantastic experience for everyone involved. Whether students were learning how to successfully barter at the market, or how to order a meal in a restaurant, the daily language lessons were brought to life every afternoon through the trips and excursions which we undertook. We visited the Great Wall of China, the Silk Market and the Forbidden City amongst other places. It was an unforgettable trip for students and staff alike, which further opened students’ eyes to the culture and wonder of China.”Mrs Peeters, Assistant Head Teacher
In Year 9, our MEP class spend a four day residential intensive study visit to Nottingham University which is renowned for its specialism in language learning. They experience what it is like to study Mandarin at University, produce a marketing campaign in language and compete with other MEP schools. This is a chance for our students to meet like-minded individuals from across the country and network with others with a similar passion for Mandarin.
In Year 10 and Lower Sixth, students have another opportunity to go to China for two weeks on a home-to-home exchange visit, this time to one of our partner schools in China as part of the school’s International Visits and Exchange Programme.
Students spend two days in Shanghai before travelling to the partner school to meet and stay in the home of their exchange partner. They spend some time in the partner school learning what a typical day in a Chinese school is like, then take part in day excursions to local cultural and historical places of interest.
The exchange partners then return to stay with our students in their homes, learning about the English school day and take part in local excursions in Essex and London.
“I made dumplings and buns with my family and enjoyed it because it was the time when I got really involved with the family and got to know them. A really inspirational exchange”,Sophie-Louise, Year 10 student
The MEP is one of the shining stars in our curriculum and we are extremely proud to be able to offer our students the opportunity to participate in this truly unique experience.