Since 2013, Nesta and the Cabinet Office have been working together to increase the availability of volunteer-led tutoring within schools in order to improve the educational attainment of disadvantaged pupils. To this end, the Click, Connect, Learn fund was launched in order to explore how digital technology could work to make volunteer tutoring more accessible. In 2017, Language Futures was announced as one of three organisations to receive funding to model, implement and evaluate their work in this area.

Language Futures combines digital resources and language-proficient mentor volunteers with project-based learning, peer collaboration and teachers’ expertise. The approach supports students to choose their own language, so that in one classroom several languages might be being learnt. This means students can learn a language that is relevant or meaningful to them.

Students speak very highly of the positive impact of volunteer mentoring. However, there can be some geography-based barriers to mentoring: finding mentors for all requested languages, consistent mentor attendance, and travel arrangements. Therefore, a key objective of the Click, Connect, Learn funding is to explore recruiting mentors who can deliver sessions online. Currently, we are trialling online mentoring in eight schools in order to offer more students their own choice of language, giving them a better educational experience. Funding will support training for schools involved as well as for the mentor volunteers involved in online tutoring.

Margaret Stewart at Swavesey Village College (part of the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust), one of the teachers involved in the project as well as the school lead for CCL across the eight schools, says: ‘‘I am delighted that Swavesey Village College are further developing the Language Futures approach as part of the Click Connect Learn project this year. We will be building on the great work done by our volunteer community mentors who personalise learning for students in their chosen language, the peer collaboration developed in lessons and the expertise of our language teachers, to provide highly personalised support to students to learn a language of their choice. Learning will continue with a mixture of face to face and online support. This additional online feature which complements traditional learning strategies will be monitored as to how it impacts upon student engagement and progress as well as to the overall scalability of the Language Futures approach to language learning.”

The Language Futures approach is led by the Association for Language Learning in partnership with Whole Education and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.  The Click, Connect, Learn project is led by Whole Education in partnership with the Association for Language Learning and funded by Nesta.

For more information about the Click, Connect, Learn project, or for general information on the Language Futures approach and how your school can become involved, please contact the Language Futures Project Manager, Clodagh Cooney, by emailing ccooney@all-languages.org.uk.

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