Question: What country has a population of 1.3 billion, invented the umbrella, paper and the wheelbarrow and boasts the world’s second largest economy?

Answer: China!

Didcot Girls' School has a proud tradition of language learning.

The British Council first awarded us the International Schools Award for sustained commitment to language teaching and international education in 1999.

We have retained the award over six consecutive periods and hold it still today, eighteen years later.

We offer French, German and Spanish as well as Mandarin Chinese to all our students from Year 7 through to A-Level in the sixth form.

We are the only comprehensive school in Oxfordshire which offers Mandarin Chinese and currently have three Chinese teachers in the modern foreign languages department (one native speaking and two English speaking) as well as a Chinese language assistant.

Every year our students travel to China, and there are regular trips and exchanges to France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Our Mandarin offer is distinctive and something of which we are proud, part of the gold standard foreign language provision at the school.

Why Mandarin Chinese? It is the most widely spoken language in the world, and, in order for the UK to remain globally competitive, we need young people to master the language and understand the fascinating culture of this vast country.

We know that our students will leave us with a huge advantage for the future if they can speak Mandarin Chinese.

We believe that studying languages will make our students culturally aware, linguistically adept and research tells us that young people with a modern foreign language qualification earn more than their peers.

In our post-Brexit society, it feels more important than ever to celebrate language learning and to create opportunities for our young people to travel abroad, experience new cultures and enjoy the rich vibrancy of living in a global society.

Alongside this, of course, is the sheer joy of learning and mastering a foreign language.

In March this year, on the basis of our outstanding rating from Ofsted and our impressive track record in teaching modern languages, Didcot Girls’ School was selected as one of the first schools in the country to participate in the Department for Education’s national Mandarin Excellence Programme.

From September, up to 30 students in Year 7 will study Mandarin for eight hours a week over the course of their secondary education.

They will visit China in Year 8, take their GCSEs early and progress onto A-Level and university-level study.

This new intensive language programme, which is being supported by the University College London Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, will see at least 5,000 school students in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.

We will also be working with the Swire Chinese Language Programme and the Institute of Education Confucius Classroom to establish Didcot Girls’ School as a local hub for other schools teaching Chinese for the first time.

We plan to introduce Chinese to St Birinus School, our partner school in our multi academy trust, and to our local partner primary schools.

Radley College and Oxford High School are already involved in the Swire Chinese Language Programme and we look forward to working closely with them both as the programme develops.

What defines the best schools is an ambition and restlessness to keep moving forward and to excel at everything they do.

Didcot Girls’ School is a great school.

We are determined that all our students have an exceptional educational experience, whether their interest lies in science, engineering and maths or dance, music and art.

The continued development of Mandarin Chinese is just one of many creative innovations afoot here. The future is exciting!