Principal Liu studies overseas in Chengdu

For some months now, my friends have been wondering why they have seen so little of me and why I have missed so many of their get-togethers. My reply is simple: “I am studying overseas!” My team and I are so committed to the education design of Chengdu Westminster, a challenging yet immensely fulfilling project, that I always feel that I am studying in the UK though physically in China.

For me, it is important to be physically fit to support the intense daily work. I think a lot about time management. Each morning, I get out of bed at 5:30am every morning, and start my day with an 800-meter swim to wake up my body and to stay active. Often, inspiration comes to me under water and I start to organise my thoughts. I’m used to arriving at the office at an hour early, as is my team. Then, you will see some Chinese teachers and foreign teachers helping each other to learn new languages, some reading, I also usually read important documents during this time. I am excited to get into work after my PA puts my daily schedule together. We strive to maximise time efficiency by gathering for a short time to assign tasks, and using a sand clock to control time for academic meetings and a Gantt chart to make detailed plans for the phasing of the work.

▲ Standing up for the meeting

We held an online seminar a few weeks ago with staff from Westminster School to discuss our draft “CWS Language Policy”.

▲ The Academic Team of Chengdu Westminster School discusses “CWS Language Policy” with the experts of Westminster School.

Dr Steve Bailey, The Master of Westminster Under School (first from right, second row)
Dr Glenn Horridge, Westminster Under School Coordinator of Westminster China Schools (first from left, second row)
Debbie Harris, Principal of Chengdu Westminster Senior School, former Deputy Head (Co-Curriculum) of Westminster School, holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics, University of Oxford (first from right, second row)
Dr Kevin Walsh, Project Director of Westminster China Schools (second from left, second row)
Mr Rupert Candy, Assistant Master (Teaching and Learning) of Westminster Under School (second from right, second row)
Mr Geran Jones, Modern Languages teacher of Westminster School (first from left, third row)

“For an experienced policy maker, the most challenging part is to provide practical and useful information that cover all aspects of language usage. In the draft of CWS language policy, we try to make it as comprehensive as possible to enable relevant faculties to understand the inter-relationship of each element and the overall plan, and lay a firm foundation for the detailed departmental documents such as handbooks and schemes of work later on.”

“We have clarified the role of family involvement in language policy because home serves as an important place for students to achieve their language development.”

“We have also clarified the direct connection between the CWS language standards and those of CEFR, IELTES and TOEFL to help parents to understand.”

“Pupils’ language development is an important cornerstone of the work of Chengdu Westminster School; indeed, every teacher at CWS is a language teacher. This is also a foundation of the development of our approach to oracy.”

“The key is to look at how language policy has an impact on the school’s language practice, which in turn permeates daily school life, for classroom teaching, co-curriculum activities, and interdisciplinary subjects.”

“It is crucial to utilise Assessment for Learning in language development, this approach should reflect Westminster School’s precision and rigour.”

Notes: we should know that the holistic information collection is an 8-hour continuous series of workshop designed by Viki, the deputy principal of primary school who is also a teacher training expert. In each workshop, colleagues will join us from Hong Kong, India, and Singapore online. Guided by the task list with clearly orientated reading materials, we are divided in smaller groups based on each individual’s previous experience to bring out pupils’ bilingual development requirements, tests for pupils’ depending on their language level and bridging all three school sections of CWS.

The in-depth and focused conversation lasted for one hour, and was part of the second round discussion on language policy at CWS. Dialogue is the at the heart of culture of Westminster School which now is supporting the development of Chengdu Westminster School in the form of dialogue with our teachers. Discussion on language policy continues, it is the collective wisdom of CWS academic team.

▲ Ms Liu Juan works with the Primary Team.

Being one of the team members, I have to overcome the language barrier. The help I receive from my colleagues and advanced technology allow my thoughts to be in sync with my team and for me to think with my team. My colleagues describe me as a student instead of a principal. And all the teachers are my classmates who study with me together. By doing so, I gradually acquire the ability to think, reflect and express myself in both Chinese and English. More importantly, I can see my changes both implicitly and explicitly, as I overcome my fear and have become more adaptive to the bilingual environment. It is through this cross-language dialogue with Westminster School, that I am developing a bilingual way of thinking and mindset.

▲ With the help of the team, Ms Liu Juan practises English and overcomes the language barrier.

Many topics are covered in our dialogues with Westminster School including the setting of curriculum, co-curriculum and pastoral care. The implementation of pedagogy, the house system and the bridging of the three academic stages have all featured in our discussions with Westminster School. All of these are essential to the creation of our CWS education system.

Every time before we have a meeting with Westminster School, my Chinese team prepares a long list of questions and topics. These are based on days of reading and learning of the Westminster School/Westminster Under School materials – handbooks, support materials, website and papers that display the Westminster School education essence that has evolved over nine hundred years. We discuss and reflect on Chinese education practice, status quo and future development. The leader of the Westminster School China Project would go through every question on the list and offers us abundant academic resources and references, as well as stimulating our thinking. Such a way of interacting has become our daily routine and reading English materials is now a demanding yet pleasurable task for every team member.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has kept us from making frequent bilateral exchanges physically and our exchanges are therefore conducted online. But before the pandemic, Dr Kevin Walsh, the leader of Westminster School China Project came to Chengdu to follow the project and contribute his ideas every two months. And I have been to London twice for study visits to observe classes and attend lectures.

A team with both Chinese and foreign staff brings diversity. Each one of us presents different perspectives, ways of working, experiences on a daily basis. Different attitudes also allow us to deal with difficulties and challenges in a variety of ways. After gradually coming to know diverse working habits and sense of humour from different countries, I have become a more open-minded person who understands and respects foreign cultures. This propels me to use the most effective and appropriate ways to communicate with my colleagues.


▲ In December 2019, Ms Liu Juan communicated with The Master of Westminster Under School.

“We should set aside some breathing space for children”, “Every child should have an individualised education”, “Not all class duration should be the same”, “We should maintain a proper balance between academic study and co-curricular activities”. These are humanised and workable designs which have been adopted in our school to promote and guarantee the overall development of every single student.

In Chengdu Westminster School, we have drawn the essence of both Chinese and British education and developed a quality nurturing regime with a global perspective, which will empower pupils to make great achievements.


▲ Ms Liu Juan in discussion with Mr Stephen Bailey, Head of Theology and Philosophy at Westminster School.


▲ Ms Liu Juan and Ms Jen Li took a group photograph with Ms Abigail Farr, Dr Richard Kowenicki, Mr Geran Jones.

This is a busy, fulfilling, and meaningful time.

We are dedicated to understanding each other, deconstructing educational elements, during the process of reconstructing CWS educational system, we co-create CWS education.

I feel extremely lucky to build such a deep connection with a top British school whilst working in Chengdu.

The true meaning of “studying in the UK in Chengdu” should not be limited only to the growth of a Chinese principal and our teachers, it means much more when pupils walk into the beautiful campus of CWS to immerse themselves in a Westminster education and equip themselves with what is needed for their future development and start a great life ahead of them.

▲ British Ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, and Ms Liu Juan.