London's tots learning Mandarin at immersive Chinese-English school

Catherine Jessup Published: 2017-10-13 13:59:24
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British students learn Chinese. [File photo:]

British students learn Chinese. [File photo:]

A new London private school launched this September is using language immersion to teach Mandarin to children as young as three years old.

Kensington Wade, a “completely immersive” Chinese-English primary school launched this academic year, offers children the opportunity to learn Mandarin to native-level fluency from a young age. Headteacher Jo Wallace told the Evening Standard it will allow kids the start in life they need to become “global citizens”.

“Almost all business opportunities by and large are helped by having Mandarin, and professional parents who work with China - or who understand this is the future - want their children to keep up,” she told the paper.

Wallace described the environment in the school, which charges £17,000 per year in fees, as “the opposite of a stressed-out environment.”

“Having a bilingual brain has both emotional and intellectual benefits,” she added.

A typical day of classes at Kensington Wade features the kind of classes you would expect in any primary school, with the key difference that for half of the day, pupils are taught in Mandarin.

Teachers at Kensington Wade also use Chinese teaching methods for some classes. A “UK version” of Shanghai maths, the method of maths teaching where the teacher must ensure every child understands before they can move on with the class, has been incorporated into the teaching style.

Adele Turner, whose youngest child attends the school, told the Evening Standard she originally had some concerns about the use of Chinese teaching practices but now thinks it is working well. “The teachers are so lovely and in three weeks my son is already speaking Mandarin,” she said. “He sings songs in Mandarin to me when he comes home.”

She added that her youngest son’s Mandarin language skills were quickly catching up with that of her older child, who is three years older and attends a different school where he has Mandarin lessons for an hour per week.

So what’s next for Kensington Wade? In the next ten years the school plans to branch out into other cities in Europe, as well as extending its London campus to accommodate two classes in each year group from ages 3-11.

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