Case Studies

Rosendale Primary School – London, England

Background

Rosendale is an outstanding primary school located in south-west London with 700 pupils on roll. The school has a diverse intake typical of an inner London school. At the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, we launched a pilot scheme in one of our Year 3 classes to try a more intensive approach to language learning. Given that children have a natural facility to learn languages at primary-school age, we want to explore whether it is possible, while working within the constraints of the current national curriculum, for a whole class to achieve a moderate level of fluency in a foreign language (in this case Mandarin Chinese) by the end of their primary schooling.

Pedagogy

Every class at Rosendale, from Reception through to Year 6, has a weekly 45-minute language lesson. To this we have added, in our test class, four 15-minute bursts of language learning each week. Whereas the longer Mandarin sessions are held in the school’s languages room, the 15-minute sessions are held in the classroom. They are conducted entirely in Mandarin and there is no prior preparation – the teacher simply walks into the room and starts talking.

Mandarin is popular among all the pupils in the test class.  Rosendale uses cooperative learning structures to ensure that all pupils are engaged and contribute to every lesson.  They are proving particularly effective in language learning as a means to ensure that everyone is speaking and practising equally.

In addition, we have invested a small amount of money in on-line learning software that allows the pupils to practise Mandarin during independent learning time in the school day or at home.  The exercises the pupils complete can be reviewed, on line, by the class teacher.

There is obvious scope for use of new technologies in language learning. We have established a partner school in China and are about to trial direct pupil-in-China to pupil-in-England language learning lessons using Skype. The time difference will mean that this will have to be carried out first thing in the morning.

Progress

The class had previously studied Mandarin, once a week, for one term during Year 2 (for the other two terms they had studied French).  At time of writing (two weeks from the end of the autumn term), the pupils have learned vocabulary (approximately 70 words) covering greetings, family members, nationality, where they live, places in town, animals, hobbies and professions. They have learned to speak in simple sentences, in particular using the verbs ‘to have’, ‘to be’ and ‘to like’, and using the first and third person. They have also learned the days of the week, months and numbers from 1 to 99. Lastly, they have learned a number of songs.

Assessment

We are following the Asset Languages Breakthrough Curriculum and expect all of the class to achieve Asset Languages Breakthrough level by the end of Year 3 – and many to significantly exceed this benchmark.

Clearly, the pilot programme is only in its early stages.   However, progress is encouraging and there are no obvious impediments at this point.  If progress can be maintained at the current rate through primary schooling, we see no reason why these pupils should not achieve GCSE standard, at least in speaking and listening, by the end of their time at Rosendale.

If this more intensive approach to language learning at primary school can be shown to be effective, and in light of the priority placed on language learning by the current Government, then the question arises as to whether an objective case could be made for allocating more time and resources to language learning in the primary phase of education.  It would also highlight the need for a more strategic approach to foreign language learning across primary and secondary schooling where often there is little joined up planning between the primary and secondary schools in a local area.

We would be interested in exchanging experiences of primary language learning, in England or in other education systems, and in any research on the impact of language learning in primary school on wider pupil engagement and achievement.

Kou You, Lead Mandarin Teacher

School website: http://www.rosendale.cc/

Rosendale’s Mandarin Curriculum: http://www.rosendale.cc/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Mandarin-Overview.pdf

Mandarin Chinese blog:  https://rpsmandarin.wordpress.com

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To read the case study from The Queen’s School, based in Chester, click the link below to download. This focused specifically on setting up a curriculum for early years.

Millbrook Primary School – Newport, South Wales

“Our approach at Millbrook has been to offer Mandarin via a triple literacy approach, meaning we teach Mandarin alongside Welsh and English. This enables our students to gain a deeper and better understanding of all three languages. You can learn more about this approach by reading the below document, issued by the Welsh Government.

We also try to involve our students in authentic learning opportunities. To this end, we provide students with opportunities to plan real life experiences where they can use Mandarin – for example Year 5 recently ran their own Chinese restaurant for the community.

Below you will find a recent presentation of our work which outlines some of our journey, including the importance of staff professional development. This has included staff learning Mandarin alongside other languages. To promote a love of learning Mandarin among our pupils, it is important that our staff embrace language learning too. This is key for us in developing our provision as we move towards a new curriculum in Wales”.

Lindsey Watkins, Headteacher

School website: http://www.millbrookprimary.co.uk/?page_id=18

Braehead Primary School – Stirling, Scotland

“Learning and teaching of Chinese began at Braehead in 2015 with a Whole School Context focussing on 1+2 Languages (the Scottish Government’s Language Learning Policy for schools). Each stage within the school chose a country and its associated language to study, and our Primary 4 classes chose China and Chinese.

Mairi Breen, our Headteacher at the time, asked me, as an Intermediate learner of Chinese, to take on the delivery of Support for Learning, which gave me flexibility to also deliver Mandarin lessons to P4. I had lived in Beijing for two and a half years and I was keen to start teaching Mandarin which I had found to be a very enjoyable language to learn.

Chinese caught on quickly at Braehead, with our P4 classes working on a major project with CISS (Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools) and Stirling Castle which involved our 55 P4 pupils creating a film in Mandarin publicising the castle, teaching Tour Guides Mandarin phrases to use with Chinese visitors and the creation of materials such as maps, leaflets and signs in Mandarin.

The Primary 4 pupils began production of a series of Podcasts to teach the language that they had been learning in class. These are available online at The Braehead Languages Cafe.

The 1+2 Policy requires Primary Schools in Scotland to teach the home language plus two further Modern Languages, in our case, English (L1), French (L2) and Mandarin (L3).  This meant that by June 2017, all our P4 – 7 pupils (around 200 in total) were having weekly Mandarin lessons and I was beginning to construct a 4-year Progression which could be used in subsequent years and which builds on previously-learned knowledge.

Braehead pupils have shown great enthusiasm and aptitude for learning Mandarin, taking tones and characters in their stride. After involvement in a further project with the RZZS (Royal Zoological Society of Scotland) to help launch the very successful Giant Lanterns of China exhibition, the school was nominated for a Scottish Education Award for our teaching of Modern Languages.

The school’s Confucius Classroom was launched in September 2017 and I was offered the chance to take on a two day per week secondment to develop the teaching of Chinese with Stirling Council in 2018 /19.

With the help of our two British Council Language Assistants, this has given me the chance to deliver a year of Chinese language learning with Primary 7 pupils across the Stirling Learning Community, meaning that all pupils from the six schools which feed into Stirling High School will all have at least one year of Mandarin learning with Braehead pupils having a total of four years’ experience.

Last term, our other five Stirling Learning Community schools all took part in a transition project that involved each of the six classes paying three visits to the Braehead Hub to participate in Chinese cooking, Chinese craft and Film-making in our new digital studio. The film equipment, kitchen and transport were all paid for by the Confucius Classroom fund. We are delighted that Stirling High School has now recruited a GTCS-registered teacher of Chinese, which means that all the new S1 intake will receive a period of Mandarin each week and will be able to continue their study through to National Qualifications if they wish.

Eleven of Braehead’s P7 pupils recently sat their YCT 1 Exam and are awaiting results in June 2019.

We have now extended our delivery of Mandarin to P7s in the Bannockburn Learning Community and with the extension of my secondment for another year and the addition of our new Hanban teacher, we hope to expand the teaching of Mandarin to reach more schools within the Stirling Council area. I am currently in the process of making our Four-Year Progression Pathways and the related resources available online”.

Susan Lawson, Teacher Contact

School website: https://www.stirling.gov.uk/learning-education/schools/primary-schools/braehead-primary-school/

Mandarin Chinese blog: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/st/braeheadlanguagescafe/

A documentary made by the Stirling Primary Confucius Hub about their flagship project: “Chinese Tuesdays”