A core feature of the Language Futures approach is Building a Learning Community  which champions the role of mentoring as a way to support language learning in schools. As part of the approach, students receive personalised support from language proficient mentors who are volunteers with an in-depth knowledge and fluency in a particular language, recruited to provide good models of the language and advise students on specific language queries and learning tasks.

Mentors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and feedback from schools has found that mentors are essential to the success of the approach. Students speak positively about working with mentors face-to-face in the classroom, citing the opportunity for conversation and immediate feedback and there is an overwhelming conviction on the part of the students that having mentors in the classroom with them is the best way of working.

Rachel Hawkes, Director of International Education and Research at Comberton Academy Trust, who launched Language Futures this September, says: ‘‘Language Futures’ mentors I have met are motivated to volunteer for a variety of reasons. Some are parents who value the opportunity to get to know their own child’s school. Others are considering becoming a teacher or teaching assistant as a possible career option and see this as valuable professional experience. All love the language they know and have a passion for sharing the language and its culture with a future generation of speakers.’’

While Siobhan Judge, Language Futures Co-ordinator at Linton Village College where the approach was developed originally, says: ‘’Mentoring is an integral part of the LF process for us at LVC. We understand that the programme would not be the success it is without the vital and valuable role that our community mentors play in teaching language, sharing their culture and enriching the experience for all our students. When a mentor is really engaged with the students it can take language learning to another level. It can also be a very enriching and confidence boosting experience for those mentors who are deciding whether to go back to work or not and are trying volunteering, and also for those who are retired but still want to contribute and share their love of languages/their culture.’’

Language Futures was first developed in 2009 by Linton Village College as part of the Learning Futures initiative led by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, in partnership with the Innovation Unit. In September 2015 the initiative was transferred to the Association for Language Learning, with legacy grant funding from the PHF for the next two academic years.  A range of resources to support the role of mentoring are available on the ALL website as part of our Building Schools’ Capacity resources.

In November 2015, ALL also received funding from The Mercers’ Company to further explore the role of mentoring. This included capturing feedback from schools on the role of mentoring including any barriers and opportunities that schools may experience.  This funding has enabled us to create a series of additional resources which address some of the key challenges to mentoring. We have created a step by step guide to establishing mentoring which explores the essentials needed to establish mentoring, including how to recruit and retain mentors.  Other resources include a PowerPoint to support mentor induction and questionnaires to support the evaluation process. A case study, Mentoring at Linton Village College, is also available.

Language World 2017 (ALL’s annual conference and CPD event to be held in Nottingham on the 24th-25th of March) will also feature a primary session focusing on the role of mentoring. Opening the classroom door to parents and the community: How Language Futures can enhance provision and impact upon progress will explore how the approach has been implemented at primary school including pupils’ feedback and impact upon progress.

For further information on the Language Futures approach or on becoming a Language Futures mentor, visit the Language Futures web pages or contact the Language Futures Project Manager Clodagh Cooney by emailing cc448@le.ac.uk

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