Oundle pupils through to Final of British Council and HSBC Mandarin Chinese Speaking competition
2nd February 2015

Six pupils from Oundle School in Northamptonshire are through to the National Final of the British Council and HSBC’s Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition – where they are hoping to win a trip to Beijing.

After impressing the judges with their language skills at one of two regional heats, held in London in December, the pupils will now compete in the grand Final at the British Museum on 9 February 2015.

Edward Willey (18), Coco Brown (16), Finn Taylor (16), Egan Pashley (16), Jason Parker (16) and Mimi Campbell-Breeden (14) will compete in the Group Performance category.  

The nationwide competition aims to encourage greater interest in Chinese language and culture – which is vital to the UK’s future prosperity. Chinese is already spoken by more than a billion people worldwide and is gaining greater and greater importance, with China being the world’s second biggest economy. However, the British Council’s Languages for the Future report in 2013 showed that only 1% of UK adults can speak Mandarin.

The competition is aimed at pupils who are non-native speakers and who have started learning Mandarin Chinese recently. Over the past twelve years, it has helped to inspire hundreds of young people to further their Mandarin studies - some going on to graduate in Mandarin Chinese. The lucky winners from each category will visit China in 2015, where they will have the opportunity to put their Mandarin to good use and experience Chinese culture first-hand.

The British Council and HSBC have joined forces to run the competition since 2003. The British Council builds relationships for the UK through English, Education and Culture, and already links thousands of pupils and teachers in the UK and China. Globally, HSBC invests US$50 million a year in education projects and thousands of HSBC employees get involved through volunteering. Together, HSBC helps young people fulfil their potential by: providing access to education, developing life-skills and entrepreneurship, and promoting international and cultural understanding. Since 2000, HSBC has supported over 1,000 UK schools host teachers from China to help children learn more about the language and Chinese culture.

Hua Yan, Head of Chinese at Oundle said, We are always keen for pupils at Oundle to learn Chinese in a creative way, which includes learning Chinese through sketches. By doing so they have improved their confidence in spoken Chinese dramatically.”

Upper Sixth former, Ed Willey commented, “It has been great fun to learn and perform this sketch with the others in the group, and we are looking forward to going to the Final in February. I have been offered a place to study Chinese at Cambridge after I leave Oundle in the summer, and believe that the extra work and practice that we have done has really helped me to improve my language skills.”

Last year Oundle School was recognised as a ‘Confucius Classroom’ by Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International which is a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry for Education. The status is awarded by Hanban to schools outside of China that are good enough and ambitious enough in Chinese teaching and learning.

Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters is committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide, meeting the demands of foreign Chinese learners and contributing to the development of multiculturalism. IOE (Institute of Education) ‘Confucius Classrooms’ are mainstream schools across England that both have Chinese firmly embedded in their own curriculum and can give advice, support and taster classes to other schools in their region that are looking to start offering Chinese.

There are currently 37 IOE ‘Confucius Classrooms’ in a variety of different English schools (both state-maintained and independent) which teach pupils of all ages, from infant, age 4 through to Sixth Form College, age 18).

Oundle has offered Mandarin teaching since 1995 and was one of the first of very few schools to do so. It started as an extra-curricular option and has developed into a popular timetabled option to GCSE and Pre-U level. This year, 20 pupils took GCSE Chinese, with 16 gaining an A* grade and 4 an A grade. At Pre U level, 4 pupils gained an A grade and one pupil gained a B grade.

Oundle will benefit from visits from experienced Chinese teachers from China each year, and free teaching resources in exchange for promoting Chinese teaching in the region - giving advice, support and taster classes to other schools in in East Anglia that are looking to start offering Chinese. Hanban teacher, Shunyong (Leo) Ge arrived at Oundle in late October.

Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council said, “For the UK to continue to prosper in the global marketplace, we need more of our young people to develop their language skills to work confidently around the world and in multinational organisations here in the UK. With China now the world’s second biggest economy, there are few more important partners for us in this respect. A good understanding of Chinese language and culture will give young Brits the advantage they need to live in a global society and compete in a global economy – it is fantastic to see so many talented young people already choosing to learn Mandarin Chinese and bringing their skills to this competition.”

Lorraine Thomas, Senior Manager Global Education and UK Community Investment at HSBC said, “HSBC Global Research predicts that China will become the world’s largest economy by 2050. Learning Mandarin Chinese and understanding Chinese culture will be invaluable; helping us build connections with China, and increase cross-border business and trade in the future. The competition highlights the importance of cross-cultural understanding and gives young people from the UK an opportunity to develop and improve their Chinese language skills. We are delighted to continue supporting the competition and encouraging young people to learn about China.”

For more information about the competition, please contact Kristen McNicoll in the British Council Press Office on 0207 389 4967 or


Background information on Oundle’s Adamson Centre for Modern Languages

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, has been redesigned specifically with the teaching of foreign languages in mind. In addition to welcoming over 900 pupils a week, the Centre will also provide a hub of excellence within the wider community of teaching, with staff hosting conferences and lectures to promote the development of languages.


The 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 20 Oundelians going on to read one or more languages at university.


The building is named after major benefactor and former pupil David Frederic Dobell Adamson who left the School in 1937. He requested that “this bequest be used to improve facilities for and give opportunities to students to learn to speak and communicate in foreign languages.”


The Adamson Centre facilities include:

·         14 Teaching Rooms: Each classroom focuses on a single language and culture and is equipped with high quality audio speakers, an interactive whiteboard and projector.

·         2 Sony Language Laboratories: Two dedicated PC suites combine all the features of a traditional laboratory with the latest multimedia technology, including Sony Virtuoso language software.

·         6 Language Assistant Pods: Fully equipped with touch screen computers, these modern glass fronted rooms are designated specifically for conversation classes and oral examinations.

·         The Raymond Lee International Suite: The centre-piece and ‘hub’ of the Department, this Suite provides a perfect venue for language conferences, films, lectures from visiting speakers and competitions. It is equipped with the latest Skype technology, blu-ray cinema system, projector and blackout blinds.


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 1110 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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