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Mandarin and Chinese Culture at Highgate Primary

Our 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.

Mandarin Provision

Reception Classes: The children gain their first exposure to Mandarin through songs, rhymes and simple phrases taught during a short carpet session which takes place twice a week. In addition to this, we have at least one native-speaking teacher running a Chinese cultural craft or calligraphy activity in the Reception Classes’ shared area every morning.  Our teachers use Mandarin to direct the children in the activity and to converse with them.

Year 1:

  • Each week, our native-speaking teacher leads two 15-minute language lessons. In addition, the children rotate in small groups to engage in a table-top Mandarin language game or Chinese cultural activity to consolidate their learning.

Year 2:

  • Children have two 20-minute lessons each week.

Key Stage 2:

  • Children have two 30-minute lessons each week.

Our Approach

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

Lessons are taught by our specialist Mandarin teachers, the majority of whom are native speakers.  We teach the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) with an emphasis on speaking and listening.  Our Mandarin curriculum has been designed to link in with our school’s creative curriculum where practicable. Within this framework, the children build key language skills, revisiting common words and phrases in a number of different contexts to aid long-term acquisition of the language.

Speaking and Listening: Lessons start with a phonics warm-up for pronunciation practice.  The children use actions to accompany words when learning vocabulary and teaching is largely done through games, songs and rhymes.  Plenty of time is given for children to work in pairs, allowing them maximum opportunity to practise speaking and listening.

Reading and Writing: Children start to read and write Chinese characters right away.  Writing characters the correct way engenders good habits for future learning, boosts fine motor skills and encourages focused concentration.  When learning to read, the children are encouraged to use their imaginations to make visual associations, which help them remember the characters.  Highgate Primary children do not learn ‘pinyin’ (the romanised system for Mandarin) until Year 4.

Chinese Culture:The children are given many opportunities to explore Chinese culture and way of life.  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.


We aim for all children sit Youth China Test Level 1 in Year 5.  Every candidate receives a certificate to acknowledge this achievement.

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.  The Quizlet flashcards accessible through the blog are especially useful for vocabulary consolidation.

Additional Clubs

We run additional extra-curricular Chinese cultural clubs during the school day.  These vary from year to year according to the expertise of our Mandarin teachers but may include: Chinese dance, Chinese painting, Chinese martial arts or Chinese singing.

Mandarin Curriculum by Year Group:

Year 1 Mandarin Curriculum

Year 2 Mandarin Curriculum

Year 3 Mandarin Curriculum

Year 4 Mandarin Curriculum

Year 5 Mandarin Curriculum

Year 6 Mandarin Curriculum