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Meridian Primary School in Comberton hosts teacher trainees from Beijing for unique placements





Meridian Primary School in Comberton opened its doors and classrooms to five teacher trainee students from Beijing Normal University in China for four weeks.

In the first arrangement of its kind in the Cambridge region - and possibly in the UK - the trainees were each appointed to a class, as well as being given their own timetables to observe and take part in their specialist subject areas in other year groups.

The group of Chinese trainee students from Beijing Normal University during their four-week final placement at Meridian Primary School in Comberton. From left Kang Jinpeng, Zhuomayangzong, Wang Jiayang, headteacher Carole Etchie, Wu Yucong and Li Ruijie. Picture: Keith Heppell
The group of Chinese trainee students from Beijing Normal University during their four-week final placement at Meridian Primary School in Comberton. From left Kang Jinpeng, Zhuomayangzong, Wang Jiayang, headteacher Carole Etchie, Wu Yucong and Li Ruijie. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We have been delighted to have this link this year,” said headteacher Carole Etchie. “The students have really embraced our busy school life and established relationships with the pupils and staff really quickly.”

The trainees, who are in their fourth and final year of their teaching degree, will be applying for teaching posts once back in their home country. Ahead of the placement at Meridian Primary, they enjoyed a week of lectures at Hughes Hall at the University of Cambridge to learn and understand the pedagogy and educational philosophy implemented in UK schools – and how children are taught in smaller class sizes.

It was organised by Dr Li Yuan, a professor at the college of education for the future at Beijing Normal University. Dr Li Yuan has lived here and worked at UK universities, including Cambridge, for more than 20 years.

The trainees were interested in the teaching of phonics, which is taught at Meridian in small groups in the morning using the Read Write Inc scheme, and could provide a strong foundation for learning the English language even overseas.

One of the trainees, Jiayang Wang, said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed the various teaching methods and approaches here, especially the use of group work for children's learning.

“I particularly appreciate the encouragement and constructive feedback given to the students. This is exactly what I need to apply in my future teaching. Teachers not only praise students' work but also provide guidance on how to improve it.”

Kang Jinpeng added: “My internship at Meridian Primary School has been an enriching experience. The cultural exchange has been invaluable, and I've learned a great deal from both the teachers and the student

And Wu Yucong noted: “What impressed me the most was the teaching of leadership in PE class. The teacher dedicated most of the time to giving students the opportunity to design and create their own exercises and explain them to the class, fostering students' leadership skills.”

Li Ruijie said: “This experience has taught me how to incorporate the development of good habits into my daily teaching. For instance, I can pay more attention to the process rather than just focusing on the results when evaluating and assisting students. Additionally, I've realised the importance of connecting classroom knowledge to real-life situations.”

And Zhuo Ma Yang Zong observed: "I've noticed that Meridian Primary School places a strong emphasis on the social and emotional development of students. They encourage cooperation and mutual assistance among students, fostering a sense of teamwork and social skills. The students are friendly and respectful.”

Mrs Etchie said: “It’s great that we have now established some links with a teacher training university abroad. It has been a three-way enrichment programme with our school, China and the professors at Cambridge University. Of course our school has had the real benefit of four weeks in class support and we have learned about these students and their lives abroad.”



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