Penrice Becomes the First School in Cornwall to Join National Mandarin Excellence Programme

Penrice Academy has this week announced that students in Year 7 will be offered the chance to study Mandarin Chinese on a flagship language programme.

The St. Austell-based academy becomes the first and only school in Cornwall to join the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) – an intensive curriculum offering in which settings must be rated Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ with strong performance in Modern Foreign Languages to be eligible to deliver.

The course is an ambitious, accelerated programme, designed to push the most academically able, requiring an average of eight hours of Mandarin study a week and leads to a full GCSE in Mandarin. 4 hours of this will be classroom learning plus another 4 hours of independent study per week.

All Year 7 pupils at Penrice will soon be invited to apply and become the inaugural, 25-strong cohort with the first lesson due to take place immediately after October half-term.Learning Mandarin will not replace the learning of French or Spanish on the students’ timetables, it is an additional option.

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world, connecting speakers with an exciting and dynamic culture as well as boosting career opportunities. Research by the British Council identifies Mandarin as one of the most important languages for the UK’s future prosperity and influence on the global stage.

Mrs Rebecca Yeo
Head of Languages at Penrice

“Being the only school in Cornwall to offer the Mandarin Excellence Programme is a fantastic opportunity for our students to stand out from the crowd; it will set students apart from the rest and open doors in future college, university, apprenticeship and work placements. It will add a highly coveted string to their bow.
“Languages perform extremely well at Penrice – we are very pro-language and it is something that we really value for our students. There is a wealth of evidence that highlights Mandarin will be one of the most important languages moving forward – particularly for the economy.”

Scott McDonald, Chief Executive British Council, said:

“The Mandarin Excellence Programme is helping thousands of young people in England to develop the language expertise and intercultural skills which will open the door to a whole world of study and career opportunities. Mandarin is one of the most important languages for young people in the UK to learn right now. Not only does it lead to a greater understanding of China’s people and culture, it builds stronger connections and mutual trust between our two countries, which is essential for future business, trade and prosperity.”

A New Face at Penrice Academy

Miss Rose brings exciting Mandarin language skills to Penrice Academy

Heading up the programme will be Miss Emily Rose who joins Penrice following experience of delivering the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) at two different schools in Coventry during her teacher training year.

She said:

“It is going to be a really enjoyable first year and I can’t wait to get started with our first MEP cohort! The first year of the syllabus covers: Greetings, Numbers up to 99, Age, Family Members, Pets, Hobbies, and School.”

Miss Rose began learning Mandarin in Plymouth when she was 13 years old and continued to learn Mandarin all the way through to university where her chosen course was Asia-Pacific Studies. This included a placement year in China.

Miss Rose reflected on her placement year and said:

“I studied Chinese at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, one of China’s most prestigious universities. It was a very challenging and intensive experience because I spoke Mandarin every day, both in class and in my daily interactions. It was incredibly beneficial for improving my confidence, my fluency and my use of vocabulary, as well as my understanding of Chinese culture. I also got the chance to make friends from countries all over the world who were also studying Chinese, which was really enjoyable.”

Overseas Trip to China

It is intended that, as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP), students will be able to enjoy a two-week residential in China during Year 9. However, this is reliant on continued government funding and the continued easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Mrs Yeo commented:

“There is a lot of focus on Enrichment during the course. Students will get a really broad understanding of how to be a global citizen. They will get to immerse themselves in another culture, and it’ll open their eyes to the broader world; something in Cornwall our students often don’t get to do.”
“We are super excited of the possibility of our current Year 7 students enjoying a trip to China in 2025 – what an opportunity! However, we are cautious about getting excited too early about this trip as a lot could change in that time.”

Additional Year 9 Enrichment Offering

As well as offering the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) to students in Year 7, Penrice Academy has already kickstarted the academic year by enrolling a small cohort of Year 9 students on a customised course (featured image).

Mrs Yeo commented:

“Mandarin is an amazing Enrichment opportunity for Year 9. We have adapted the MEP curriculum to form an accelerated programme, offered to a small cohort, that will be able to take Mandarin GCSE if they so wish.”

The school intend to open this enrichment offering to other year groups next academic year.

Final Words

Penrice Academy wish to pass on their thanks to Clevedon School (near Bristol) who have been highly supportive in helping Penrice set up the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP), having launched their own MEP course back in 2019.

Mrs Yeo said:

“A big thank you must go to Clevedon School. We have been working closely with Mr Coughlan, Clevedon School’s Mandarin Subject Co-ordinator, who has been absolutely brilliant in helping us get Mandarin up and running.”

Upcoming Open Evening

Prospective parents are invited to find out more about Penrice’s Mandarin Excellence Programme at an upcoming Open Evening on Thursday 22 September.

Penrice Academy Open Evening 2022