About Mandarin at Highgate Primary School

Highgate Primary’s Mandarin and Chinese Culture curriculum was launched in September 2013. In 2015, the school became recognised as a centre of excellence for Mandarin and was awarded the status of Confucius Classroom. Highgate Primary is one of only a handful of primary schools in the UK to achieve such recognition.

Lessons in the timetable

All lessons are taught by our specialist Mandarin teacher, Rhoda Pennington (Pan Laoshi) and our native speaker teacher, Li Rui (Li Laoshi) and language assistant (Zhao Laoshi)

Nursery:  One Mandarin singing session a week

Reception: Mandarin language sessions twice a week and Chinese cultural /craft activities every morning

Year 1: One afternoon a week of Chinese cultural and language activity and in addition a 20 minute language focused lesson each week

Year 2: Two twenty minute lessons a week

Years 3-6: Two thirty minute lessons a week


We teach the four skills of language learning (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Lessons start with a phonics warm up for pronunciation practice. We use actions to accompany words to help with vocabulary learning and the teaching is largely done through games, songs and rhymes.

Highgate Primary children start to read and write Chinese characters right away. Writing characters the correct way boosts fine motor skills and encourages good concentration. When learning to read characters, the children are encouraged to use their imaginations to make visual associations, which help them remember the characters.

Chinese Culture

The children have many opportunities to explore Chinese culture in Mandarin lessons. They learn about key Chinese festivals including Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. Through our relationship with the Confucius Institute at London Southbank University, the children attend an annual Chinese Spring Festival Performance that includes martial arts, Chinese folk singing and Chinese folk music performed by visiting experts from China. The Confucius Institute also provides our extra-curricular Martial Arts club.  We also provide a Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Club once a week at lunchtime.


In Year 5, all children sit Youth China Test Level 1, an international qualification in Mandarin. Every candidate receives a certificate to acknowledge this achievement.

In Year 6, children work towards the Youth China Test Level 2.

Home learning

Children can consolidate and extend learning at home by logging on to this blog.

Two key ambitions underpin our Mandarin and Chinese Culture curriculum. We aim to:

– inspire the children and equip them with the skills and confidence to learn foreign languages going into Key Stage Three and beyond
– deepen intercultural awareness through exploring another culture and way of life and give Highgate Primary children the opportunity to understand core British values within a global context

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