Launch of Oundle’s ‘Confucius Classroom’ outreach programme
1st April 2015

As a recently appointed Hanban ‘Confucius Classroom’, Oundle School launched its new outreach programme at an event on 24th February. The event was attended by Headteachers and Heads of Modern Languages from sixteen local schools. Following a Chinese buffet lunch, visitors were entertained with dragon and lion dancing, received a Chinese taster lesson, enjoyed seeing a Chinese short play performed by pupils who had won the group category at the recent HSBC Mandarin speaking competition earlier in the year and rounded up the afternoon with a discussion session. The event provided an opportunity to explore the outreach opportunities already planned and to brain storm ideas for further activities.

The ‘Confucius Classroom’ status is awarded by Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry for Education, to schools outside of China that are good enough and ambitious enough in Chinese teaching and learning. Oundle will benefit from both the provision of experienced Chinese teachers from China and free teaching resources in exchange for the School promoting Chinese teaching in the region - giving advice, support and taster classes to other schools in the East Midlands that are looking to start offering Chinese. There are currently thirty seven IOE ‘Confucius Classrooms’ in a variety of different English schools (both state-maintained and independent) which teach pupils of all ages.

Head of Chinese, Hua Yan, commented, “As the only secondary school in Northamptonshire currently teaching Mandarin, we are keen to share the expertise that we have developed over the last twenty years and this is one of the main requirements in our new role. Hanban teacher, Shunyong started at Oundle in October 2014 and preparations are already underway with a proposed outreach programme to include weekend classes, after-school clubs in local schools, taster lessons and themed events, skype links and lectures.”




Oundle has offered Mandarin teaching since 1995 and was one of the first of very few schools to do so in the UK. Chinese started as an extra-curricular option and has developed into a popular timetabled option to GCSE and Pre-U level. Since Hua was appointed Head of Chinese in 2010, the teaching of Mandarin has flourished, with the number of Chinese learners increasing steadily from twenty-five in 2010 to nearly eighty in 2014. The GCSE, A-Level and Pre-U results have been consistently excellent. Twenty pupils took GCSE Chinese in June 2014, with sixteen gaining an A* grade and four an A grade. At Pre-U level, four pupils gained an A grade and one pupil gained a B grade. Over the last few years a number of pupils from the department have gone on to university to read Chinese and one of the present Upper Sixth pupils, who started learning Mandarin in the Third Form, has recently been offered a place at Cambridge for October.

One of the Chinese delivering strategies at Oundle has been to incorporate learning the language with cultural activities or trips. Some pupils enjoy singing Chinese pop songs, whilst others enjoy learning Chinese through sketches. In 2014, the School organized for six pupils to participate in the annual HSBC Mandarin Speaking Competition. Following success in the regional heat, the pupils went through to the final where the Oundle team performed a short Chinese play called 'Red Sorghum' which is adapted from Mo Yan's novel of the same name. The pupils won first prize in this competition. The judging panel was impressed by their Chinese pronunciation and good understanding of the story in the performance. Their prize is a free trip to Beijing in April 2015.

Modern Languages at Oundle

The opening of Oundle School’s Adamson Centre in 2013 marked a new and exciting phase for the Modern Languages Department and is the latest completed project in Oundle’s comprehensive and ongoing development plan. A stunning blend of traditional architecture and contemporary glass features, the Adamson Centre, formerly the Sir Peter Scott Building, was redesigned specifically with the teaching of foreign languages in mind. In addition to welcoming over 900 pupils a week, the Centre also provides a hub of excellence within the wider community of teaching, with staff hosting conferences and lectures to promote the development of languages.

Oundle’s Modern Foreign Languages Department is one of the largest in the School, with seven languages being timetabled: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. More pupils than ever are learning two or more languages, with many more taking advantage of the breadth of clubs, societies and lectures on offer outside the curriculum. A Level and Pre-U results continue to rise; last summer saw pupils gain 45 A* and A grades at A2, with twenty Oundelians going on to read one or more languages at university.


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 

There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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