Pupils across Newcastle will have the chance to learn Chinese, thanks to a new city-wide initiative.
According to a British Council report published in November, the UK will be in desperate need of foreign language speakers after Brexit, with Mandarin Chinese ranked as the second most needed global language.
The Swire Chinese Language centre aims to ensure Newcastle schoolchildren have the opportunity to learn the vital skill, sending Chinese teachers out to schools across the city. So far, 450 pupils from 12 different primary and secondary schools are signed up, with plans to add 10 more schools to the initiative by next year.
The centre was launched at the start of this school year Newcastle High School for Girls (NHSG) and St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School.
NHSG pupils Liz Urwin, 14, Hibah Aslam, 14, and Erin Bryce, 13, were among the first to sign up for the classes.
Erin said: “I wanted to do it because I thought it was something that would be really useful for the future – we study French and German but this was a great opportunity, not everyone gets to study Mandarin at school.” Liz, who hopes to take the language at GCSE level said classes had proved interesting – and not as daunting as some might have feared.
Hibah added: “It’s not quite as hard as you might think, though the reading and writing are quite difficult because there are a lot of different characters. I feel like we’ve already learned a lot of the basics, we’re at a good starting point already.”
NHSG headmistress Hilary French said: “This is a very exciting opportunity to share our passion for language learning with our local educational partners, here in the North-East.
“We recognise the importance of studying Chinese and we are providing future generations with valuable language skills that will enable them to maximise their career potential in the global economy.”
Carol Davison, head of St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, added: “The Swire Chinese Language Centre Newcastle opens up a fantastic opportunity for local students to learn a language that is not taught as widely as others.
“We are excited to pioneer this initiative and we would love to hear from primary and secondary schools across the North-East that would like to get involved.”