Mandarin Chinese in primary schools

What support is available for primary schools that are interested in teaching Mandarin?

Primary schools across England can access funded support for teaching Mandarin through the Mandarin Chinese for Primary Schools programme.

1. A funded network

A number of primary and secondary hub schools with experience in teaching Mandarin lead clusters in their regions. So far the primary network is most active in London, the north west, the west midlands, the south west and Leicestershire. The network will expand to further regions over the coming year.

► Contact James Trapp, Primary Network Coordinator c/o

2. Case studies

Woodside Primary Academy 750 x 500There are different models for teaching Mandarin in primary schools. Three popular models are:

  • Classes taught by a single native speaker e.g. Hanban teachers
  • Classes co-taught by a native speaker and a UK teacher with language teaching experience (though not necessarily in Mandarin)
  • Classes led by a UK teacher who learns Mandarin her/himself and teaches as they learn

Each of these offers its own advantages and disadvantages, but all three can be equally effective.

Click here to read the Case studies

3. Programme of Study / Scheme of Work

We have put together a programme of study for Key Stage 2, based around some main topics. This uses speaking, reading, writing and culture and is designed to be flexible enough to mix in with other subjects on the primary curriculum.

We believe it will be the only such programme of study specifically designed for non-specialist teachers to teach Mandarin. It is highly flexible regarding time commitments and subject mix, and includes the vocabulary and grammar needed for the Youth Chinese Tests if schools choose to aim for official assessment.Image for website

Click here to read about the Programme of Study and other resources

4. Teachers of Mandarin

If your school does not already have your own Mandarin teacher, and it is not yet the right moment to train your own (see below), then sharing teachers can be a good option for securing a qualified Mandarin teacher.

► Contact your nearest IOE Confucius Classroom to find out if either a member of staff or a visiting Hanban teacher might be able to help.

► The British Council/Hanban’s Chinese Language Assistants are also a great source of visiting support while the UK recruits and trains more homegrown Mandarin teachers to meet demand.

► To recruit your own teacher of Mandarin, post a message to propspective candidates in our e-forum, which has over 700 subscribers from across the Mandarin Chinese teaching community in UK schools.

► I don’t speak Mandarin, can I teach it? Read on below.

5. Teacher training and CPD

Short courses are available for primary school classroom teachers who start as Mandarin beginners, i.e. without any formal familiarity with Chinese language and culture.

Courses are designed to: give teachers confidence that they can learn and teach the language; provide some background knowledge about the culture; and introduce a structured online course to develop this understanding. The second part of the course takes place at a later date for teachers to reinforce and reflect on their learning and how they are starting to share it in their schools.

Future dates and venues for Primary Chinese teacher training in 2015/16 are to be confirmed.

There are also opportunities for primary teachers and for headteachers to join heavily subsidised working/study visits to China over the school holidays.

Training is also available for those who already speak Mandarin and wish to become qualified teachers, as well as CPD (Continuing Professional Development) opportunities for existing teachers of Mandarin.

Click here to read more about Teacher Training opportunities

► Watch this video for a taster of the Primary teacher training course:

Mandarin Chinese for Primary Schools is an initiative from the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) funded by HSBC Global Education Programme.

► Contact: James Trapp c/o

James Trapp BM 200 x 200James Trapp is the Primary Network Coordinator and a well-known figure among the Mandarin Chinese school teaching community for his passion and energy in engaging young learners in Mandarin and Chinese culture.