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Mandarin in the lunch hour

MANDARIN IS BEING taught in 400 to 500 secondary schools in England, a survey by Cilt, the national language organisation, indicates.

The poll of 315 secondaries and 66 primaries was undertaken to explore trends in Mandarin Chinese, which has soared in popularity in recent years.

Nine per cent of maintained schools and almost a third of independent schools surveyed said they taught the language. Overall, this is 13 per cent, but researchers said this was probably an overestimate, as schools that taught Mandarin were more likely to respond. They felt that 400 to 500 around 10 to 12 per cent of secondaries was a more realistic estimate.

The survey found that 60 per cent of the secondaries offering the language did so in lesson time. Provision varied from taster courses to A-level.

Finding time in the curriculum was the most common obstacle, reported by 55 per cent of schools, followed by the perceived difficulty of Mandarin compared with other European languages and finding staff able to teach it.

Peter Jones, headteacher of independent Littlegarth School near Colchester, has decided to introduce lunchtime Mandarin clubs for pupils aged five to eleven this term after a taster during the school's languages week.

He said: "The children learnt to say `Good morning', they had Chinese artefacts to handle, they were taught a bit about differences in the way of life and had a go at drawing Chinese characters.

"I was born in Hong Kong although I was only there for three months so I will be learning some Mandarin as well. That is part of the joy of having it in school."

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