‘Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, making it a fantastic subject to teach our pupils. We already had Mandarin in our timetable, and had become a Confucius Classroom through the Institute of Education’s Confucius Institute. This allowed us to offer advice, support and taster classes to schools in our region who were thinking of offering Chinese.
In 2016, we applied to the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) so we could make Mandarin teaching more accessible to our pupils. To be eligible, you must be a state-funded school, rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. You should be committed to teaching Mandarin, and must also comply to the set study hours and yearly enrolment figures for pupils. The online application process was straightforward. It involved explaining how the programme could work in the school, and was followed by informal conversations assessing the school’s ability to deliver the programme.
We were successful, and as an MEP school we now receive £20,000 per year. We use the money to employ staff who carry out the programme, and also additional activities. We have 90 pupils on the programme: 30 from Year 7, 28 from Year 8 and 32 from Year 9. Once signed up, the MEP pupils are expected to carry on learning Mandarin until GCSE. Alongside our MEP classes, we also have normal Chinese lessons, which the funding allows us to run as well. This means that nearly 300 pupils in our school are having timetabled Mandarin Chinese lessons this year.
The MEP brings lots of fantastic opportunities. Year 7 pupils take part in seven intensive learning days, which expose them to authentic Chinese culture; Year 8 pupils can take part in a two-week long Chinese summer camp that is heavily subsided by the UK government and the Office of Chinese Language International Council; and Year 9 pupils can enjoy a free residential trip in the UK. All these events help pupils to develop a high level of Mandarin language skills and become confident individuals.’
Kim Wang, MEP coordinator, Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, West Midlands (1,011 pupils)