Prize Trip to Beijing
5th June 2015

Over the Easter holidays, having won first prize in the Group Performance category of the HSBC Mandarin speaking competition earlier in the year, six Oundle pupils, Edward Willey (18), Coco Brown (16), Finn Taylor (16), Egan Pashley (16), Jason Parker (16) and Mimi Campbell-Breeden (14) had the opportunity to put their Mandarin to good use and experience Chinese culture first-hand, visiting historical sites and interacting with local pupils during a trip to Beijing.

The British Council, with over 20 years' experience of running cultural exchanges with China, accompanied the group on this week long prize trip which included trips to  

the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, National Museum, Tiananmen Square, Silk Market, Pearl Market, Olympic Park, Houhai Lake amongst other attractions. On the final day the group travelled to the British Council offices and had lunch with representatives from HSBC.

The pupils won the competition with their short Chinese play, Red Sorghum, adapted from Mo Yan's novel of the same name.

Coco Brown commented, “After a nine hour flight and a lot of television (and in some cases revision for those with GCSEs and A-levels around the corner), we arrived at the Peking University International School where we were to spend the first two days shadowing our Chinese ‘buddies’.

The following days were filled with palaces, markets and, most memorably, the Great Wall – apparently something that if you do not climb, you can never be a real hero! All were immense, however, I did particularly enjoy the ‘Great Wall Chute’ - a slide that transports you from the top of the mountain right down to the car park.“

On the final day the group travelled to the British Council offices and had lunch with representatives from HSBC.



Coco added, “I think it goes for all of us when I say we are hugely grateful for all that was organised for us. The trip ended with a farewell dinner with our buddies who had prepared a range of different sketches, both in English and Chinese, and shared gifts with us. We returned the next day with a camera roll of selfies, many souvenirs and new friends. I would urge fellow pupils to try this unique language and be open to a whole new world of culture and tradition. China is growing in power every day, other countries are beginning to depend on it economically, and if you know how to speak Chinese you will be vital to companies in future careers.“

Ed Willey added, “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 had has really helped me to improve my language skills.”

 Egan Pashley agreed, “This was the second time I had travelled to China and whilst I had seen many of the tourist spots before, I still thoroughly enjoyed the trip which was beneficial for both my language and my broader understanding of the Chinese culture. I have never talked so much about the premier league!”

Finn Taylor added, Being part of the winning team, I felt excited and privileged to be going to China. I had visited China a few years ago with my family, however going with the British Council gave me a completely different perspective on life in Beijing. Using what Mandarin I had learnt in School, as well as picking some up along the way, helped to enrich my experience. I had a brilliant time and I cannot wait to visit again!”

Jasper commented, "China is an amazing country with some stunning architecture including the Great Wall - when you reach the pinnacle of one uphill section you could see it stretching out for miles upon miles of beautiful countryside. The trip to China was one of the best experiences of my life!"

Upper Sixth former, Ed Willey commented, “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 had has really helped me to improve my language skills.”

Head of German, Emily Wagstaffe commented, "In addition to the six Oundle pupils, four additional pupils from across the UK accompanied us on the trip. It is not easy as a teacher taking away pupils you don't know, to a country where you don't know the language, but I was amazed by the pupils' confidence, friendliness, knowledge and passion for the Chinese language and culture. I have been inspired by each and every one of them to learn Mandarin and hope that one day, I too will get to experience Beijing as a Mandarin speaker. I am now embarking on my own journey to master the language and learn even more about the culture and history."

Oundle’s Head of Chinese, Hua Yan commented, We are always keen for pupils at Oundle to learn Chinese in a creative way, which includes learning Chinese through competitions as well as trips. By doing so they improve their confidence in spoken Chinese dramatically.”


Oundle’s Confucius Classroom Status 


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 and a launch event for the Confucius Classroom took place at Oundle in February with teachers from the area attending.

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.”


Background on the competition

The competition consisted of two categories - the individual presentation and the group performance. In the final competition, thirty three pupils participated in the individual presentation and thirteen groups from across the country took part in the group performance.   

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 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.

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 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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