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Mandarin and Chinese Culture at Highgate Primary

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.

Our 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.

Years 3-6:  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.  Our non-native Mandarin teacher has a degree in Chinese Studies and a secondary teaching qualification in Mandarin.  We teach the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing).  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 variety of contexts to promote 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 Chinese characters, the children are encouraged to use their imaginations to make visual associations, which help them remember how they are formed.  Highgate Primary children do not learn ‘pinyin’ (the romanised system for learning Mandarin) until Year 4 as doing so earlier could cause confusion with English phonics.  Learning pinyin enables children in upper Key Stage 2 to read and write in Mandarin with increasing fluency.

Chinese Culture: The children are given many opportunities to explore Chinese culture and way of life.  They learn about key Chinese festivals including Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. The whole school celebrates Chinese New Year through a variety of cultural activities and a special lunch is served to mark the occasion. Through their curriculum topic, The First Emperor of China, Year 6 children gain an in-depth insight into a period of great political and cultural significance in the history of ancient China.


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

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, calligraphy, 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


Supporting Children with SEND

How we support children with SEN or disabilities in Mandarin