Case study

Manchester Centre

As China plays an increasingly important role on the global stage, we believe that we are failing our students if we do not give them the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese. The Manchester Swire Chinese Language Centre is based at Manchester Grammar School where we have a decade’s experience of teaching Chinese. In this Swire funded project, we are working in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University to secure a major expansion of the teaching and learning of Chinese throughout schools in Manchester and beyond. Partner schools can apply for initial support towards a fully funded Chinese teacher. It is envisaged that the project will act as a catalyst to enable the teaching of Chinese to become self-sustaining in due course.

What we offer our partner schools?

  • Deliver taster lessons
  • Help recruit high quality teachers of Chinese
  • Support the planning of lessons and creation of teaching resources
  • Monitor and evaluate the work of Chinese departments
  • Provide coaching and mentoring for Chinese teachers
  • Coordinate the sharing of good practice in Chinese teaching
  • Plan educational visits to China


We are currently working with Manchester Enterprise Academy, Manchester Enterprise Academy Central and Co-op Academy North Manchester. More schools are set to join the programme from September 2018. Although the emphasis is very much on language learning, we also stress the importance of engaging with Chinese culture at a meaningful level through school trips (e.g. to Liverpool’s World Museum for the Terracotta Warrior Exhibition) or via extra-curricular activities such as a Chinese cooking club. Life-changing trips to China are being planned for future GCSE groups.

Significant obstacles to the mainstreaming of Chinese include the dearth of research into the teaching and learning of Chinese at school level, as well as a number of linguistic challenges as a result of its non-alphabetic script and tonal system. We are tackling this issue head on and proposing innovative solutions designed to appeal to learners’ interests. For example, this year we have teamed up with Mungo’s Hi Fi, a sound system based in Glasgow, to introduce key vocabulary in a way that students find engaging, as opposed to being terrified by saying the wrong tone. An example of our work can be found above.

Despite the hype, the profile of Chinese learners in UK schools remains skewed towards those from more affluent backgrounds. Our vision is that in the future, every young person in Manchester who wants to learn Chinese will be able to do so. Thanks to Swire’s incredibly generous funding, we are now well on our way to achieving this dream.

Dr Martin Boulton – High Master, The Manchester Grammar School

“In line with the philosophy underpinning the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, our mission is to secure a major expansion of the teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese throughout schools in Manchester and beyond. Adopting innovative pedagogical approaches and the latest digital tools, we hope that Chinese will increasingly be viewed as a subject that can be taken on by students from all backgrounds and of all learning capabilities, as well as a vehicle for raising aspirations and opening opportunities.”