Millburn Primary School in Coleraine is celebrating a global honour after being named ‘Classroom of the Year’ by the Confucious Institute in China.
Principal Sharon Lamont, MBE, said she was “absolutely thrilled” to personally receive the prestigious award from Liu Yandong, the Vice Premier of the People’s Republic, at the 10th Annual Confucius Institute Conference in Shanghai last weekend.
“It’s a great honour and a little surrreal for a little school like Millburn to receive this global award,” Mrs Lamont told The Coleraine Times.
“But it’s a great credit to the team here - the parents, and the governors - who believed in the project from the start and allowed us to develop our links with the Confucius Institute and China.
“We have also had the pleasure of working closely with marvellous Mandarin teachers such as Mrs Yan Liu, Director of the Confucius Institute, Northern Ireland, to deliver the programme.
“Our children are so excited with the award and the interest in the school has been exceptional.”
In April 2013 The Confucius Institute opened eight Confucius Classroom Hubs, throughout Northern Ireland, among them Millburn Primary School, to promote Chinese language and culture to young people across Northern Ireland.
“Having been awarded Lead School for the Coleraine Confucius Hub was certainly an honour; however this was made even more extraordinary when Millburn was advised that it is the only primary school within the United Kingdom to have been given this status,” added Mrs Lamont.
The Confucius Institute Headquarters funded 22 Chinese teachers and a Chinese Director, to roll out lessons in Mandarin Chinese, cultural awareness programmes, events and conferences from their Hub schools across local communities and partner networks.
Mrs Lamont said as a Lead School Millburn had been honoured for developing and expanding the programme with schools such as Coleraine Grammar, Coleraine College, Loreto College, St Joseph’s College, North Coast Integrated and Ballymena Academy. Dalriada will be also offering Mandarin in the new year.
“So far we have put 160 children, mostly P6 and P7 pupils, through the Youth Chinese Test (YCT), a literacy test in Mandarin, here at Millburn.”
“But at Millburn we have youngsters learning Mandarin and chattering away happily in Chinese from the age of four.”
The principal said that Liu Yandong was highly impressed with how Chinese culture was being embedded at the Coleraine school and throughout the North Coast in general.
Among those attending the Confucius conference were Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell and Ulster University Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon.