A school is one of the first in the region to be adding Mandarin to the curriculum.
The staff and students at St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School, Peterlee, are celebrating being chosen to add the new language to the curriculum.
Francesca Craik, head of school, said staff are thrilled with the announcement that the East Durham secondary has been selected to take part in the Mandarin Excellence Programme.
This is an intensive language programme funded by the Department for Education.
Mrs Craik said the nationwide programme offers students an unprecedented opportunity in terms of language provision, and aims to see at least 5,000 school pupils in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.
The most widely spoken language in the world, it is recognised as one of the most important languages for the UK’s business future.
Mandarin Chinese is a language which is vital to the UK economyFrancesca Craik
The headteacher said the programme provides a fantastic opportunity for St Bede’s students to acquire vital language skills at an early stage – something essential for work and life in an increasingly connected world.
Students on the programme will study Mandarin Chinese every week, with selected groups of Year 7 pupils beginning in September.
St Bede’s will be at the forefront of delivering the programme, supported by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Council.
Mrs Craik said: “We are delighted to be introducing such an exciting and relevant subject to our curriculum offer.
“St Bede’s passionately believes in successfully equipping our students for the future.
“We know that Mandarin Chinese is a language which is vital to the UK economy, and how attractive this language is in the global labour market.
“Students who demonstrate a proficiency in this area will have far greater employment opportunities and a skill-set that sets them apart in a competitive world.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer this unique opportunity on a flagship programme to the young people of East Durham.”