Miriam Williams' presentation at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Languages was a major breakthrough in the teaching of Mandarin Chinese to English-speaking pupils. After one term, four of her pupils could write, read and understand around six lines of sentences in Mandarin, based on themselves, their families and interests. They read aloud fluently and with confidence, and their accurate use of tones was praised by a Cambridge academic. Their work showed far greater command of language than that revealed in most recent UK research in European languages, let alone those with a completely new script, and their exercise books showed outstanding care and precision. Miriam's management kept the pupils relaxed, and they discussed their work confidently with the parliamentarians and linguists visiting the group.
The project is led by Katharine Carruthers of the University College London Institute of Education. Fourteen schools are involved in its first year, with thirty more to follow on a "hub and spokes" model. Pupils have four hours of language teaching per week, plus four hours of private study. If the quality of work presented here is reproduced throughout the project, it will be the most important development in language teaching in secondary schools we have ever seen, and a model for teaching European languages as well as those that are seen as more difficult.