WIRRAL'S specialist sixth form college is building links with China after forming a partnership with the prestigious Soochow University High School.

The Sixth Form College in Birkenhead has signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with the institute in Suzhou, in Eastern China, following a visit by principal Kathryn Podmore.

The aim is to build extensive links with the school, creating exchange and learning opportunities for students and staff in both Wirral and China.

The college, which has recently started offering Mandarin classes as part of its student enrichment programme, is looking to establish summer school opportunities in China from this July.

Mrs Podmore said the timing of the partnership was perfect due to China's strong economic expansion and growing links with Wirral and wider Merseyside.

She said: "This is an exciting long-term opportunity for the college, our students and staff.

"This partnership will enable us to develop a student/teacher exchange programme which will enhance the education of our young people and allow them to immerse themselves in a different culture and language.

"China is an important economic centre and over the coming years – with the Peel International Trade Centre and the potential of the Wirral Waters scheme – we should be working closely with China to promote the excellent commercial and educational opportunities that Wirral and the north west can offer."

Mrs Podmore and assistant principal Kate Rigby recently returned from a visit to China, where they were given a deep insight into the educational methods of Soochow University High School.

"While there are many differences in our ideologies and methods, there is also a wealth of similarities," explained Mrs Podmore.

"Just as at the Sixth Form College, the commitment of the young people is outstanding and we share a culture of raising aspirations and expectations.

"Education is held in very high esteem and the students are motivated to learn.

"Suzhou is a major city and a significant development zone – the opportunity to visit will significantly broaden the minds of our students and staff.

"We are also very happy to be welcoming guests from the university to the college in March, when we look forward to reciprocating the same exceptional level of hospitality as we were shown."

The summer school opportunities are being developed in co-ordination with Soochow University High School and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University – an international university in Suzhou jointly founded by the University of Liverpool and Xi’an Jiaotong University.