Lasswade High School And Its Distinguished China Connections

28 February 2016

Colin and Rosemary Mitchell are SCEN Founder Ambassadors, and they represented SCEN at the British Council Generation UK China event in London. This was particularly fitting, not just in terms of their leadership within SCEN, but of Lasswade High School's very fruitful and long-standing China connections. ( Also read below about the First Minister's recent visit to Lasswade.)

LWHS-High-SchoolIn April 2015 Lasswade High School was made the Confucius Hub for Midlothian. CISS and Hanban  chose Lasswade because of its connections with China and as a school where Mandarin was already part of the curriculum. Dr Alasdair Alan (Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages) and the Deputy Consul General for the PR of China attended the opening ceremony with the Headteachers from Lasswade's Chinese Partner Schools, Mr Li, Tianjin No 25 School (Tianjin) and Mrs Du, Tianlin No 3 Middle School (Shanghai).

Lasswade's partnership with the school in Shanghai was established by the then Headteacher Ken Thomson and First Minister Jack McConnell in 2004. Since that time, staff and students from each schools have visited their partner school, the students staying with families to experience the home life of students. The partnership with Tianjin will see teachers from our new partner school regularly visiting Lasswade to spend two years teaching Mandarin in Midlothian.

Lasswade currently has a full time Mandarin teacher, Mrs Jin Zhao,and a Hanban teacher, Mrs Bella Hou. Last year was the first year we presented students for SQA qualifications: students from Lasswade gained National 4 qualifications. In partnership with the Edinburgh Chinese Community School, Lasswade was the presentation centre for students studying Cantonese and Mandarin at National 5 and Higher. This year Lasswade will present students for National 4, National 5 and Higher examinations. Lasswade students have also studied OU courses in Mandarin through the YASS scheme.

Lasswade works with volunteers from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities. Chinese students and students of Mandarin have been working in our cluster and as teaching assistants in the High School. Staff from the High School have developed a short course in Chinese language and culture which the volunteers and staff can deliver to classes. Schools across Midlothian will be able to share in this experience from next year. Last year the Edinburgh University Students' Association won an award for their part in the project.

The Royal Zoological Society for Scotland's Education Department has an outreach project "Beyond the Panda". All of the Lasswade cluster primary schools were visited, students learning about the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo and their home environment. Lasswade High School will continue to work with the Zoo and the cluster primaries to deliver the project. In 2014 Edinburgh Zoo contacted Lasswade and co-ordinated a project with Jaguar Land Rover (China). This "Once in a Lifetime" opportunity saw staff and students from Lasswade visiting Chengdu and Ya'An in Sichuan, before continuing to Shanghai and our twin school. The group visited a school damaged by an earthquake which is being rebuilt by JLC and the Bifengxia Panda Centre, where pandas had been moved for safety following an earthquake in May 2008 that severely damaged the panda breeding center at Wolong National Nature Reserve. The group learned about pandas from Professor Tang Chunxiang, the man responsible for bringing Yang Guang and Tian Tian to Edinburgh Zoo.

As a Confucius Hub, Lasswade High School has worked closely with staff from CISS in engaging with businesses. A group of students visited Kinloch-Anderson and had a video conference with their Shanghai Office. Lasswade High School now has a link with Edinburgh Castle and are looking closely to develop Education links with one of Britain's main tourists sites.

Since its founding in 2006, SCEN (Scottish China Education Network) has been central to Lasswade's work with China. Opportunities to share experiences have allowed partnerships across Scotland to blossom. Lasswade has supported the work of SCEN through SCEN Ambassadors and Youth Ambassadors. Lasswade pupils have presented at all four SCEN conferences at Gleneagles and at Heriot Watt University, the Cross Party Group on China at the Scottish Parliament and local community groups and schools. Lasswade staff and students continue to support SCEN, playing an important role in the development of sharing direct links with China.

Opportunities to visit China exist for students beyond S2. The bi-annual visit to Shanghai allows students in S3-5 an opportunity to visit a Chinese school while staying with a Chinese family. Each summer S5 students have the opportunity to visit Tianjin and Beijing as part of the CISS Immersion course in Mandarin. Last summer a group of students gained places on the course and visited the sites of Beijing and the Great Wall before arriving in Tianjin, where classes at the Teaching University provided the main activity. The group visited students from our partner school in their homes as well as the school. Each October, students in S5 and S6 have the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong to run in the Raleigh-Wilson Challenge. This challenge is a 24 hour relay race, which takes place on then first weekend of the visit. The rest of the visit involves visits to schools and to see the work of local charities. This visit is led by Nigel Fong of Swiss-Sure HK, Founder of the Hong Kong Scotland Education Connection, and organised by Morrison's Academy. When students finish their secondary education, there is a final opportunity for them to experience China. Students can apply to spend a year studying in China. This is organised by CISS and Hanban and is based in Tianjin. Students are based at the teaching University in Tianjin and all expenses except their flights are paid by the Hanban.

Lasswade High School's Plans.....

  • Through a partnership with all Midlothian secondary schools, every senior student in Midlothian will have the opportunity to study Mandarin at Lasswade. Volunteers from the local universities and our Hanban teachers will extend the Chines experience to other clusters within Midlothian.
  • Last year Hanban and CISS announced that primary schools will be able to apply for Hub Status. Hawthorden PS has applied to become one of Scotland's first primary hubs. We look forward to their opening in 2016.
  • Funded by Hanban, Lasswade has purchased Chinese musical instruments which will supplement the musical oppotunities available from the Miusic department and instructors. Queen Anne High School Dunfermline, another SCEN partner and Confucius Hub, has given invaluable advice in helping us choose suitable instruments and plan their use. We look forward to their arrival.
  • Staff from Midlothian now have the opportunity to visit China. During the Easter Holiday Headteachers and Education Officers may have the opportunity to visit Tianjin and Beijing as part of the Headteacher visit. During the summer, staff can apply to visit Tianjin and Bejing on the Teacher Immersion Course in Mandarin, or to be a chaperone on the student course.
First Minister's Visit to Lasswade High School

Click here to view a short video about the First Minister's Visit to Lasswade High School.

FMThe FM met students who....

  • have been to Chengdu and Shanghai with JLS / Edinburgh Zoo
  • have been to Tianjin and Beijing (CISS immersion course)
  • who ran in the Raleigh Wilson Relay 
  • who are going to Tianjin and Beijing (CISS immersion course)
  • who are going to run the Raleigh Wilson Relay in October
  • who are going to Shanghai and Tianjin in October.

She had specifically asked to see the students she met last summer.