Language Futures was first developed in 2009 by Linton Village College in Cambridgeshire as part of the Learning Futures initiative led by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, in partnership with the Innovation Unit. Learning Futures itself drew significantly on the Foundation’s prior Musical Futures initiative which has transformed music teaching in hundreds of schools across the UK and internationally. Learning Futures aimed to deepen young people’s engagement with their learning across the curriculum, to achieve better outcomes and sustain a commitment to learning beyond school. Over 40 schools worked to design and test innovative methods of teaching and learning to increase engagement.
The initiative aimed to achieve deep engagement such that the learner:
- cares not just about the outcome, but also the development of their learning
- takes responsibility for their learning
- brings discretionary energy to their learning tasks
- can locate the value of their learning beyond school and wishes to prolong it beyond school hours.
Four key approaches were identified that, when applied together, can prove transformative for schools and lead to deep and sustained learner engagement:
- using project-based learning that crosses disciplinary boundaries, with students of all abilities
- treating school as a base-camp for learning rather than as a final destination
- utilising a range of extended learning relationships to support each student so that learning is something that can happen at any time, in any place and with many people – not just in a classroom
- transforming school into a learning commons for which teachers, students and the local community share responsibility, over which they share responsibility and from which they all benefit.
Published by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Work that matters: A teacher’s guide to project-based learning provides further information on the Learning Futures approach.
“It is important as a nation that we find new ways of motivating young people to study languages. It is very encouraging to see students taking responsibility for their own learning and making such good use of technology. Language Futures is one of the most innovative ways of teaching modern foreign languages that I have seen.”Baroness Estelle Morris
In September 2015 the Language Futures initiative was transferred to the Association for Language Learning, with legacy grant funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for the next two academic years. ALL has made a commitment, alongside its partner Whole Education, to oversee the further development of the Language Futures Programme. This involves:
- supporting schools who are already using or wishing to adopt Language Futures as an approach to language learning in-curriculum
- supporting schools pursuing Language Futures as an after school model
- developing resources, case studies and best practice guidance.
We are also carrying out a rigorous research exercise exploring and evaluating the impact of the Language Futures approach on learners, teachers, and the wider school community, particularly parents and mentors. Research focusing on learners is exploring their learning outcomes, evaluating linguistic competence, progression, motivation and engagement, and autonomy. Research focusing on teachers is exploring the role of teacher-facilitator while research on the wider school community is examining the effects of the Language Futures approach on perceived home-school relationships, as well as on mentors.
About the team
ALL works closely with its project partner Whole Education and the initiative is overseen by ALL’s Director, Rachel Middleton, with three consultants working in the following ways:
Project Manager, Clodagh Cooney: takes day to day management responsibility for the Language Futures initiative
Schools Adviser, Ann Swarbrick: advises and supports the development of this innovative and highly engaging way of learning languages in school settings, particularly with schools wishing to pursue Language Futures as an after school/extra curricular model
Education Researcher, Rachel Hawkes: explores and evaluates the impact of the Language Futures approach on learners, teachers, and the wider school community, particularly parents and mentors.