St Catherine’s College in Eastbourne, East Sussex, has become one of the very few state schools in the UK to be recognised for its excellence in teaching Mandarin.

The school is to be part of a selective government excellence programme that aims to create 5,000 schoolchildren who are fluent in Mandarin by 2020.

A special event was held yesterday (Tuesday 21 March) at St Catherine’s College, attended by top officials from the Chinese Embassy in London, to formally launch their ‘Confucius Classroom’.

The prestigious occasion, which included lion dancing and culturally inspired workshops such as calligraphy and martial arts, also celebrated the school’s formal partnership with the world leading Confucius Institute of Dance and Performance at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Mark Talbot, Principal at St Catherine’s College, said: “This achievement will help define the success and quality of St Catherine’s College for generations of young people to come. It represents a step-change in our language department that I know our students, parents and teaching staff are very excited about.

“Where French was once the staple of comprehensive education – and is still taught at the school along with Spanish – Mandarin speakers are widely accepted as critical to the UK’s long-term success in a global market place.”

Key stage 3 students will study Mandarin at St Catherine’s College, while it is optional at key stage 4.

Mr Wang Yongli, Deputy Director General of Confucius Institute Headquarters and the Minister Counsellor for Education at the Chinese Embassy in London, said: “I feel very privileged to be a part of this occasion at St Catherine’s College. Congratulations to the school and all the people who have been involved.”

Annie Guo, Director of the Goldsmith’s Confucius Institute, said: “We work closely with the college and after initially beginning as an affiliated classroom, we decided to deepen the relationship by launching the Confucius Classroom here.”