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“Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world. The teaching should enable pupils to express their ideas and thoughts in another language and to understand and respond to its speakers, both in speech and in writing. It should also provide opportunities for them to communicate for practical purposes, learn new ways of thinking and read great literature in the original language. Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries.”

- National Curriculum 2014.


Language is as much as a tool for communication as it is for learning. Chinese is the world’s third most spoken language and at Lowbrook our Mandarin Chinese curriculum is therefore designed to prepare children at the academy for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences later in life

The National Curriculum, (2.1:2014) encapsulates the following:

  • Effective and efficient language learning strategies that can be applied to any language, including those which are unique to script languages.
  • Opportunities that come from learning a foreign language in the context of pupils’ immediate present and future.
  • Enhanced awareness of pupils’ roles as global citizens and subsequent aspirations fostered through comparison of British and Chinese culture and interaction with native speakers of the target culture.

We teach according to a spiralled model of learning, where language items are taught in mind of students prior learning and in a way that fosters creativity in drawing on experience from their daily lives. Cross-curricular links are planned for in addition to regular revision of language learned with the class teacher throughout the week outside of weekly Mandarin lessons with a native speaker.

Along with speaking, reading, listening and writing, the curriculum includes culture as a “skill” which is deemed as equally as important. Language items are taught in conjunction with key cultural festivals throughout the year and nuances expounded upon in order for children to better understand the history of the language in terms of how it has developed and is therefore presently structured. Chinese New Year is celebrated annually with visiting artistes which exposes students to the school of further aspects of Chinese culture. Furthermore, a weekly club is held to enable children to expand on learning about Chinese culture beyond weekly lessons.

A “Growth Mindset” is essential for learning a language such as Chinese and we encourage staff as well as pupils to embrace the challenges that come with learning the language. It is expected that the enjoyment that naturally comes as a result of challenge and competition will cultivate resilience and an overall positive attitude towards learning.

The 2014 National Curriculum states, “teaching should provide an appropriate balance of spoken and written language and should lay the foundations for further foreign language teaching at key stage 3.” The foundations of Chinese are multifaceted, thus in order to achieve this aim, we ensure students begin their learning journey at a measured pace so what they are learning can effectively be retained in their long-term memory (LTM). In doing so, we aim to “develop accurate pronunciation and intonation so that others understand when they are reading aloud or using familiar words and phrases” due to the tonal aspect of the language and in mastering the romanised version of the language known as “pinyin”, which serves as a pronunciation guide (though not replacement) for Chinese characters. Additionally, knowledge of pinyin is the gateway to being able to type Chinese on a computer or mobile device. This will enable pupils to “write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences, to express ideas clearly”. Children will also be taught to write by hand, but with a measured approach, so that students are able to apply the rules of the writing system consistently which in turn facilitates muscle memory.

It is our intent that our children will be inspired by learning a foreign language such as Mandarin Chinese. We will aspire for them to be creative with ways of memorising language items and encourage them to use what they have learned in and outside of lessons. Pupils will be taught to take risks and be resourceful in order to make progress in the language. Through regular comparison between their own language and culture and that of Chinese, they will develop a more critical understanding of the world and their daily lives.

Children will leave Lowbrook ready for Secondary school with the skills and knowledge to excel in Modern Languages curriculums after having nurtured a unique sense of confidence in their ability to learn and apply the knowledge of Chinese they have learned.

Our partnership with the Swire Chinese Language Centre Oxford ensures that our curriculum is designed in a way that is accessible to all learners. This is reflected in their mission statement: “raising aspirations by enabling schools to build long-term sustainable Chinese courses to all learners across Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties” (

We now have a local hub of 4 schools who engage in Mandarin teaching and it is our intent that lesson plans, teaching methods and ideas for clubs and visiting artistes are shared between the schools.

It is our intent to ensure Chinese lessons reflect real life situations hence topics are carefully chosen and scaffolded in a way that is conducive to regular use in the classroom, and to reinforce learning in other curriculum areas. For example, addition and multiplication are inherent in the Chinese number system and the importance of academic rigour is emphasised when writing Chinese characters.

It is our intent that the majority of lessons reflect how Chinese is used authentically, with knowledge of Chinese culture included to ensure children communicate appropriately according to Chinese customs. This is reflected in how children communicate with our Chinese Language Assistant, a native of China, during lessons and around the school.


The allocation of time set out below is the starting point for planning, however the art in teaching is not determined by time and it is expected that teachers will act professionally within these guidelines to allocate appropriate and effective amounts of time to each area as they feel fit. 

In the Foundation Stage, the overlap of Areas of Learning makes hourly time allocation inappropriate. Pupils at Key Stage 1 have opportunities therefore to have a mixture of teacher led and child-initiated play.

In line with the recommendations outlined within the RIPL White Paper each class has 20% of overall curriculum time dedicated to the teaching of a modern language and is designed around our own distinctive locality. The curriculum will be planned and delivered by specialist teachers (CLAs), and where appropriate, artists and musicians

The learning of Mandarin Chinese may be supported in other curriculum areas to enhance students’ knowledge of Chinese culture and to be able to use the language they have learned in other contexts. For example, numbers up to 99 in Chinese naturally involve application of addition and multiplication that exist in Mathematics while other areas lend themselves well to projects in History and Geography.

Mandarin Chinese is taught as a discrete subject through units of work, which are largely based on the National Curriculum programme of study for modern languages, consultation from experts in the field such as the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, the British Council and Hanban, in addition to lesson plans incorporating wider research and resource materials as appropriate to the year group and child. 

Modern languages objectives from the National Curriculum are linked to Mandarin Chinese units to make their learning experience more meaningful and relevant. Further there is regular revision of language and cultural concepts taught throughout other Domains as and where appropriate.

All staff are encouraged to learn the language alongside the children and are offered funded opportunities to attend language courses and training onsite, remotely and/or at another institution such as the Swire Chinese Language Centre Oxford or programmes run by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute.

National and regional events related to China, visitor opportunities and local initiatives will also grab our attention and warrant curriculum exploration and time in this domain. The children attending Mandarin club have performed and recorded a Chinese poem in response to a competition set by the British council. This poem was placed on our Twitter account. A cultivated awareness of Chinese culture is deemed important at the Academy and are therefore taught in each year groups. It is envisaged that we will find a partner school in China for regular engagement as the subject develops.

It is our belief that consolidation of learning and knowledge is fundamental; and therefore, see removing barriers to learning, such as formation of preconceptions due to lack of exposure, as key to this. The development of the Arts and Culture Week has been hugely influential with our pupils in achieving this. Annually we design a whole week of age-appropriate cultural activities, a “Chinese New Year Day” and lessons which are designed into our curriculum. Experts from the world outside school are planned for and invited in to work with the children; several cultural workshops are arranged for the children where children can experience and make use of cultural artefacts; visits to museums are planned; and projects with other schools who offer Mandarin Chinese as part of their curriculum are organised.

Arts and Culture week is a highlight of the Academic year and is used to complement and enrich our weekly curriculum. Year two study the historical context and geographical features of China in more depth during term 4 through the domain of Place and Time.

Mandarin Lead - Margaret Brown