News story

China’s First Lady visits London school

Madame Peng Liyuan visits Fortismere School to observe a Mandarin class and hear about its student exchange programme with China.

China’s First Lady, Madame Peng Liyuan was welcomed to Fortismere School in Haringey on Wednesday (21 October 2015) by Schools Minister Nick Gibb, headteacher Helen Anthony and students of Fortismere School, as part of the official China state visit.

After addressing a group of pupils, the First Lady was treated to a programme of Chinese poems and songs performed entirely in Mandarin. The First Lady remarked on how impressed she was with the students’ command and comprehension of Mandarin before presenting the school with a donation of 200 books.

The Schools Minister then accompanied Madame Peng on a tour of the school where she observed a Mandarin lesson and took questions from pupils on a range of topics, including women’s education, for which she is a UNESCO ambassador.

The visit follows the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne last month of a £10 million investment to allow even more children to learn Mandarin at school, with the ambition of having an additional 5,000 students learning Mandarin by 2020. The funding will include recruiting and training more teachers in state schools in England to enable an additional 5,000 students to leave school having studied Mandarin.

Fortismere School has existing links to China through an ongoing student exchange programme and is the highest-performing state-funded school for Mandarin in London.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

It was wonderful to accompany Madame Peng Liyuan today to witness how schools like Fortismere are leading the way in Mandarin teaching and international collaboration.

The First Lady was clearly impressed by the standard of Mandarin spoken by the sixth formers at the school and enjoyed the poetry recitation and Chinese songs, sung by younger pupils.

Education collaboration between the UK and China can help us to learn from each other’s successes, not just in teaching Mandarin but in other academic disciplines.

Helen Anthony, headteacher of Fortismere School, said:

Madam Peng’s visit was an absolute delight.

We were thrilled to showcase our talented students and staff as they recited poems, played traditional Chinese folk tunes and sang the Mandarin version of ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’. The First Lady applauded and smiled and we all smiled with her.

A truly red-carpet day for us all at Fortismere.

Minister’s visit to school to see Mandarin in action - with Madame Peng Liyuan