Nottingham is celebrating a decade of City school partnerships with China by holding a special education conference to highlight best practice in establishing international links.

Taking place on Monday 21 September, the Education Cooperation Conference will bring together more than 50 people from Ningbo and Nottingham to look at the benefits that partnerships bring to school pupils.

Two City schools – Bluecoat Academy and Welbeck Primary – who are already twinned with the Chinese city, will show how important relationships have been created with children across international borders.

Leaders from Nottingham and Ningbo will also sign a memorandum of understanding to set up new partnership links with more schools – with representatives from 20 schools attending the conference to learn more about the process.

Nottingham is aspiring to be the UK’s most China-friendly city, building on the relationship established between the University of Nottingham and Ningbo 11 years ago.

A total of 25 delegates from Ningbo, including the Chinese city’s Vice-Mayor Wang, will attend the conference at the National College for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus. Organised by Nottingham City Council with the University of Nottingham, up to 20 Nottingham school head teachers, as well as representatives from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University will be there. Some 35 UK-based education institutions, including colleges and universities will also be attending, some from as far away as Wales and Brighton.

Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice Chancellor for the University of Nottingham and Chair of Nottingham City’s Education Improvement Board, said the conference was a chance to celebrate the two cities’ special relationship.

Sir David said: “Nottingham has a proud and long-standing relationship with China which has benefited our University and schools alike. Our education links with Ningbo are pioneering and we will continue to lead the way to build stronger links for the benefit of both of our cities.”

The Education Cooperation Conference is one of a range of events being held to mark the special anniversary between Nottingham and Ningbo. Nottingham’s relationship with Ningbo – a port city of 7.6m people south of Shanghai – began 11 years ago when the University of Nottingham became the first foreign university to set up a campus in China. Civic links began in 2005 and have since developed into trade and commerce links.

Pat Fielding, Director of Education in Nottingham, will be one of the speakers at the conference. He said: “The Education Cooperation Conference will give us the opportunity to talk about long-term educational goals for both cities, including setting up new partnership arrangements and exchange programmes. Over the last 10 years our pupils in Nottingham have benefited from a greater understanding of the lives of children from the other side of the world in a culture that is very different to our own. I look forward to seeing this continue long into the future for the next generation of school pupils.”

Andy Noyes, Professor of Education and Head of School of Education at The University of Nottingham, said: “Educators in the UK and China know that there is much to learn from one another’s education systems. For example, the UK government has been particularly interested in the high mathematical attainment in Shanghai’s schools and has funded teacher exchanges as a result. 

“Our School of Education is working on several collaborative research projects in Shanghai and Beijing. It also runs professional development courses in China, study visits to England and a Professional Doctorate programme in Ningbo which allows teachers to spend time in Nottingham. Teachers in China are keen to understand more about curriculum and leadership in England.”

The Education Cooperation Conference will be held in the National College for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus on Monday 21 September from 9am-12.30pm.

Speakers at the Education Conference include Nick Miles, Past Provost of the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo Campus; Ian Curryer, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council; Ningbo’s Vice-Mayor Wang; and Pat Fielding, Director of Education in Nottingham.

Case Study: Welbeck Primary School

Welbeck Primary School in The Meadows was one of the first City schools to be twinned with a school in Ningbo 10 years ago. The school established links with Jinshan Primary in the Yinzhou district in Ningbo.

Pupils have been learning about their partners in China – and even use Chinese social media Weibo to make contact. The Confucius Institute at the University of Nottingham and members of Nottingham Chinese Scholars Association have also run workshops with Welbeck pupils, where they taught pupils how to draw Chinese characters and how to say “Hello” and “Happy New Year”. Pupils were also taught Tai chi and Origami paper cutting.

These workshops helped to encourage the students to think about the differences between life in the UK and China.

Welbeck Head teacher Carol Norman said: “Welbeck Primary is a truly International school in terms of our own diversity and we have a great reputation and years of experience of hosting international visits and developing international links with schools across the world. We are extremely proud of our links with Jinshan. The children are always very excited at the thought of making new friends from China.”