Oundle School recently launched its new outreach programme as one of Hanban’s ‘Confucius Classrooms’. The launch event was attended by headteachers and heads of modern languages from 16 local schools. Following a Chinese buffet lunch, visitors were shown dragon and lion dancing, received a Chinese taster lesson, watched a Chinese short play performed by the pupils who won the group category at the recent HSBC Mandarin Speaking Competition and took part in a discussion session. The event promoted the outreach opportunities already planned and discussed ideas for further activities.
Confucius Classroom status is awarded by Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry for Education, to schools outside of China with appropriate standards of Chinese teaching and learning. Oundle will receive experienced Chinese teachers from China and free teaching resources in exchange for the school promoting Chinese teaching in the region – giving advice, support and taster classes to other schools in the East Midlands that are looking to start offering Chinese. There are currently 37 IOE Confucius Classrooms in a variety of different English schools (both state-maintained and independent) which teach pupils of all ages.
Head of Chinese Hua Yan said: “As the only secondary school in Northamptonshire currently teaching Mandarin, we are keen to share the expertise that we have developed over the last 20 years and this is one of the main requirements in our new role. Hanban teacher Shunyong started at Oundle in October 2014 and preparations are already underway for a proposed outreach programme to include weekend classes, after-school clubs in local schools, taster lessons and themed events, skype links and lectures.”
Oundle has offered Mandarin teaching since 1995, starting with an extra-curricular option and then to GCSE and pre-U level. Since Hua was appointed Head of Chinese in 2010, the number of Chinese learners has increased from 25 in 2010 to nearly 80 in 2014. Twenty pupils took GCSE Chinese in June 2014, with 16 gaining an A* grade and four an A grade. At pre-U level, four pupils gained an A grade and one pupil gained a B grade. Over the last few years a number of pupils from the department have gone on to university to read Chinese and one of the present upper-sixth pupils, who started learning Mandarin in the third form, has recently been offered a place at Cambridge for October.
One of the Chinese delivering strategies at Oundle has been to incorporate learning the language with cultural activities or trips. Some pupils sing Chinese pop songs, whilst others learn Chinese through sketches. In 2014, the school organized for six pupils to participate in the annual HSBC Mandarin Speaking Competition. Following success in the regional heat, the pupils went through to the final where the Oundle team performed a short Chinese play called ‘Red Sorghum’, which is adapted from Mo Yan’s novel of the same name. The pupils won first prize in this competition. The judging panel was impressed by their Chinese pronunciation and good understanding of the story in the performance. Their prize is a free trip to Beijing in April 2015.