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The facts of Mandarin

More than 100 primary and secondary headteachers have returned from a fact-finding trip to Beijing to learn about the Chinese education system and help improve the quality of Mandarin lessons here.

The teachers, who went courtesy of the British Council, spent three days in their partner schools, where they taught English and planned future joint projects.

There are now about 30 local authorities in England that have built partnerships with Chinese districts to create links between schools.

Rachel Earnshaw, the headteacher at Soho parish primary in central London, which runs Mandarin classes for its 5- to 7-year-olds, said: "We were incredibly impressed with the standards their children are achieving."

Sir Cyril Taylor, a government education adviser, recently called for all specialist language colleges to offer Mandarin, and he hoped more Chinese teachers would come to work in England to meet the demand.

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