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Highgate Primary’s Mandarin and Chinese Culture curriculum was launched in September 2013.  In 2015, the school became recognised as a centre of excellence for Mandarin and was awarded the status of Confucius Classroom. Highgate Primary is one of only a handful of primary schools in the UK to achieve such recognition.

Lessons in the timetable

All lessons are taught by our specialist Mandarin teacher, Rhoda Pennington (Pan Laoshi) and our native speaker language assistant, Li Rui (Li Laoshi).

Reception: We have a native-speaking Chinese teacher in Reception every morning. The children learn songs and simple phrases during a short carpet session. For the remainder of the morning, a Chinese cultural craft activity or Chinese calligraphy activity is set up for the children to access in rotation.

Year 1: Each week, our native-speaking Chinese teacher leads two carpet sessions for language work. In addition, this teacher works together with Year 1 teachers to deliver a weekly bilingual afternoon session during which a Mandarin language game/Chinese cultural activity/Chinese calligraphy activity is set up for the children to access in rotation.

Years 2-6: Two thirty minute lessons a week.


We teach the four skills of language learning (listening, speaking, reading and writing).   Lessons start with a phonics warm up for pronunciation practice.  We use actions to accompany words to help with vocabulary learning and the teaching is largely done through games, songs and rhymes.

Highgate Primary children start to read and write Chinese characters right away.  Writing characters the correct way boosts fine motor skills and encourages good concentration.  When learning to read characters, the children are encouraged to use their imaginations to make visual associations, which help them remember the characters.

Chinese Culture

The children have many opportunities to explore Chinese culture in Mandarin lessons.  They learn about key Chinese festivals including Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival.  Through our relationship with the Confucius Institute at London Southbank University, the children attend an annual Chinese Spring Festival Performance that includes martial arts, Chinese folk singing and Chinese folk music performed by visiting experts from China.  The Confucius Institute also provides our extra-curricular Tai Qi club.


In Year 5, all children sit Youth China Test Level 1, an international qualification in Mandarin.  Every candidate receives a certificate to acknowledge this achievement.

In Year 6, some children sit the Youth China Test Level 2.

Home learning

Children can consolidate and extend learning at home by logging on to the Highgate Primary Mandarin Blog through the link below.  The blog is also used as a teaching tool in lessons.

Highgate Primary Mandarin Blog

Two key ambitions underpin our Mandarin and Chinese Culture curriculum. We aim to:

  • inspire the children and equip them with the skills and confidence to learn foreign languages going into Key Stage Three and beyond
  • deepen intercultural awareness through exploring another culture and way of life and give Highgate Primary children the opportunity to understand core British values within a global context

Additional Clubs

Highgate Primary Mandarin Continuers Club
This club is aimed at children who have moved on to secondary school but wish to carry on with Mandarin. The club takes place after school on Wednesdays 4:20pm-5:20pm.

Chinese Calligraphy Club
Thursday lunchtimes: 12:50pm-1:25pm. This club is by invitation and is offered to children in Years 4-6 who have made very good progress with their handwriting.