High school has China in its hands

Mr Aiden Sutherland (right) receives the Confucius Classroom award from Education Secretary Michael Gove and Jennifer Jupe of SSAT.
Mr Aiden Sutherland (right) receives the Confucius Classroom award from Education Secretary Michael Gove and Jennifer Jupe of SSAT.

PONTELAND High School’s high-quality teaching of an increasingly important foreign language has been recognised with a national accolade.

It is one of only 34 schools nationally to receive the Confucius Classroom award this year to mark its status as a centre of excellence in teaching Mandarin and developing students’ understanding of Chinese culture.

Language College Director Aiden Sutherland received the award from Education Secretary Michael Gove and Strategic Director of Specialism and Curriculum Networks Jennifer Jupe at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), in a ceremony at The Barbican in London.

SSAT set up a Confucius Institute to work in partnership with the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) and Peking University.

The award includes a £6,000 cash boost, which will help the school to create a dedicated Confucius Classroom and develop a regional network of schools that are teaching Chinese and the Asian country’s culture.

Mandarin Chinese is now second only to French in terms of UK employer demand for foreign language skills.

Mr Sutherland said: “This award highlights the excellent work that our school does internationally and also recognises the wide range of opportunities available to our students in modern foreign languages.

“To be one of only 34 schools nationally to receive this award is a great achievement.”

The school has a rich international programme that includes well-established links with China, such as a very successful partnership with Chengde Number 2 School in the Hebei province.

Each year a Chinese teacher from the partner school teaches Mandarin at Ponteland High and at the area’s first schools. The visiting teacher also leads a variety of Chinese cultural activities.

Several staff from Ponteland visit China for an annual Summer School each year and students have the opportunity to visit Beijing/Chengde as part of the international programme.

Headteacher Stephen Prandle said: “Ponteland High has long recognised the importance of languages in today’s shrinking world, which is why we became a language college in 1995 — the first state school to do so.”