Melbourn Village College (MVC), a 500 strong 11-16 state-funded secondary school in
the picturesque village of Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, is in its second year of teaching Chinese as part of the standard curriculum. For a school with a very short history of teaching Chinese, students are excelling in the language so much so that the school’s 2017 Ofsted Report mentioned the teaching of Mandarin at the school five times; each time in a very positive light. Ofsted indicated in its report that Mandarin Chinese is a subject which greatly benefits MVC, and through its introduction it considers the school to be ‘forward-thinking in adapting the curriculum to suit the needs of the 21st Century’.
Intrigued by the Ofsted report we spoke to the Principal, Mr Simon Holmes about Chinese at MVC and his top tips for introducing Mandarin on curriculum. Here’s what he told us…
1. Do your research – give yourself time to think about how and where Chinese fits in with other languages at your school.
Mr Holmes explains that in the past, MVC was a very traditional school in terms of languages, offering only French and German. Seven years ago, Spanish was launched as an additional GCSE option, with students taking the GCSE after only two years’ study. Spanish became very popular as the students enjoyed the fact that it was slightly unusual and a more useful language to study. The positive reaction of the students to a ‘non-traditional’ language helped the school in considering Chinese as another language option.
2. Find and contact other schools doing Chinese – Go and visit these schools, talk to them about how they are delivering Chinese, what they’ve learned and sit in on their Chinese lessons.
A full curriculum review in 2016 led to the beginnings of Chinese at MVC. Shortly after the review, MVC visited schools including Harris Academy South Norwood to observe Chinese lessons and speak to Chinese teachers. Mr Holmes explains that this research was invaluable to their decision to introduce Mandarin as a subject option to the MVC Yr 7s.
3. Seek support – MVC would not have pursued Chinese as a subject if they felt they were completely alone in the task. Having Katharine Carruthers as a one of their contacts who could provide the support of the IOE CI was also very helpful.
In the quest to find the right Chinese teacher for the school, MVC’s support network meant that Mr Holmes and his deputy could travel to the IOE and meet with Katharine Carruthers’ cohort of Mandarin PGCE students. Going to London to meet with the students meant that MVC could get exactly the kind of person required for the post; a teacher comfortable with setting up Mandarin in a school with no prior teaching of it. A number of the students subsequently applied for the position and Mr Fan was successful in the application.
4. Get involved – Find things that are Chinese related.
MVC has taken part in the HSBC speaking competition and a programme based in St Neots that places Chinese students into English schools for an 8 week period in spring and summer terms.
MVC has also taken the opportunity to get involved in the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) and is now in its first year programme; a potentially daunting prospect for a school that only introduced Chinese on curriculum in 2016. However, Mr Holmes believes that if Chinese is right for MVC students, then the MEP is right for MVC students; that the introduction of Chinese into the curriculum is about giving the students more opportunity, and being part of the MEP is about furthering this opportunity.
5. Keep pushing forward with it and perhaps most importantly, continue to think of all the different ways the school can support its Chinese teacher.
MVC has recently taken on an IOE Mandarin PGCE student which has given Mr Fan extra support, as well as supporting the IOE. Moving forwards, the school has further developments planned; a second Chinese teacher will be employed from September 2018 and a Confucius classroom application is on the way.
6. Go for it!
The reaction to the introduction of Chinese by students has been incredibly positive as the Ofsted Report inspector notes “Pupils told me that they felt privileged to learn Mandarin.” For the school and Mr Holmes, it is very pleasing to see from the comments in the Ofsted report that introducing Mandarin has been a success.
Thank-you Mr Holmes.
Next week we will hear from Mr Fan who will give us a Chinese teacher’s perspective on being part of Mandarin Chinese at MVC.
To read the full IOE CI Report of the Mandarin at Melbourn Village College, please click here.