Oxford High School is set to become the first school in Oxfordshire to make Mandarin Chinese a compulsory subject.

From September, all 85 Year Seven pupils at the high-performing independent girls' school will study the language for at least a year.

Headteacher Felicity Lusk said teaching pupils the official language of the fastest growing economy in the world would prepare them as "executives of the future".

French is the only compulsory language for 11-year-olds at the moment, but the school in Belbroughton Road, North Oxford, also offers German, Russian, Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian and Japanese.

Last month, Richard Cairns, former deputy head of Magdalen College School, Oxford, became the first head in the country to make Mandarin a compulsory subject within weeks of taking over at Brighton College in East Sussex.

Oxford High School has a number of pupils who speak Mandarin and Ms Lusk said it was developing strong links with China.

She said: "Languages are very popular in this school and we offer a good many, but we wanted to widen the provision to reflect a greater global perspective.

"It's very much part of the ethos of the school that the students should see themselves as part of a much bigger world.

"We know that China has the world's fastest growing economy and Mandarin is becoming increasingly important.

"Students who speak fluent Chinese will be the executives of the future.

"We are making it compulsory in Year Seven to give everyone a taste of it."

Year Eight student Lynn Zheng said: "I think this is a wonderful opportunity to learn the language of a cultured and rapidly developing nation which will no doubt come in use in the near future. I only wish my year group had had the chance."

Oxfordshire's Chinese population also welcomed the news.

Dr John Leung, of the Oxfordshire Chinese Community Advice Centre, said: "Learning the language will help you understand the people, their culture and history, and may help with your business development and or scientific exchange in future."

Oxfordshire state schools considering introducing optional Mandarin include Cheney School, Oxford, and St Birinus School in Didcot both of which have specialist languages status.

Cheney Head Alan Lane said: "It's entirely understandable that schools would like to make Mandarin one of their options, given the growing economic power of China.

"We would be interested in having Mandarin available because we are looking at expanding our range of languages, but I don't think we would make it compulsory.

"Other languages that need more presence in the UK are Spanish, Arabic and Japanese."