A Blackpool school is forging close links with a country 5,000 miles away – with inspiration from one of the most renowned teachers in history.
Hawes Side Academy welcomed a delegation from China to see its new Confucius classroom named after the legendary philosopher and teacher from 479 BC.
It will provide weekly lessons on Chinese language and culture to more than 600 pupils from Years 1 to 6.
The classroom is supported through an affiliation with the Confucius Institute at Lancaster University and will host a number of visiting teachers and volunteers from China.
The introduction of Mandarin Chinese to Hawes Side’s curriculum in 2012, it is hoped the new connection with China, in conjunction with a second Confucius Classroom in place at Anchorsholme Academy, will boost both the understanding and learning of Chinese language and culture at Hawes Side and other schools across Blackpool.
It was officially opened by Wang Ying, the Education Consul and Head of the Education Section, from the Consulate-General Of The People’s Republic Of China in Manchester together with the Mayor of Blackpool Coun Kath Rowson, MP Gordon Marsden, and staff from Lancaster University.
The delegation were treated to Chinese songs, poetry, dances and a demonstration of Wu Shu, a form of Chinese Kung Fu, performed by a group of Year 4 pupils.
Head teacher Mike Shepherd said: “We started looking at this about five years ago and visited a school in Birmingham called Robin Hood to see how they were doing things.
“The children there were really excited about it and we were keen to expand our curriculum.
“It really began to take off when we got involved with the University of Lancaster’s Confucius Institute who were able to offer hands on help.”
The children at Hawes Side have been learning Mandarin for several years and have pen friends in China who have since been over to visit.
The school has masters level Chinese staff over to help in the classroom who stay up to two years.
Mr Shepherd said: “Some of our children can speak Mandarin at quite a high level, they have really taken to it.
“It is so exciting and different and having native speakers in our school has brought it alive.
“A sign at the Birmingham school said, ‘If you can speak Mandarin you can converse with half the world’s population.’ I think that helps to bring home how important it is.
“The official opening went really well, the children were not fazed at all.
“We had performances from children in year one to year six and the Chinese visitors seemed really impressed.”
The Chinese government has given support and funds to the school to invest in books and materials which has helped not just Hawes Side but other schools in Blackpool.