The Linguist

The Linguist 58,6 - Dec/Jan2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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20 The Linguist Vol/58 No/6 2019 FEATURES Teaching languages at primary school can be lonely. Sue Cave looks at a solution that brings teachers together T he Thames Valley Primary MFL (modern foreign languages) Hub is one of many groups up and down the country run by volunteers on behalf of the Association for Language Learning (ALL). These hubs provide informal training, support and networking for anyone involved in the teaching of languages in primary schools. They are free to attend and while membership of ALL is encouraged, it is not a requirement. There are currently around 40 hubs in England. Many were created in 2014, when foreign language teaching became statutory at state primary schools from age 7 (Year 3). This coincided with the demise of much of the subject advisers support that had previously been freely available through local authorities. I had been the primary MFL adviser for the local authority in Wokingham, as well as an outreach teacher for a language college. In this capacity, I had offered termly support and network meetings to teachers in the borough. With the removal of my role, this support disappeared. Primary school teachers, language specialist teachers and senior management leaders found themselves adrift, not knowing where they could obtain advice at this crucial time in the development of language teaching in primary schools. Filling the gap Teaching languages in a primary school can be a lonely affair, especially if you are the only specialist in the school. Unlike with other subjects, there is not always a colleague to turn to for advice based on their teaching experience. Often even senior management leaders have not had any practical experience of delivering the subject, as MFL is a relative newcomer to the primary curriculum. The hubs help to fill this gap. As one teacher put it: "As a lonely specialist languages teacher in the primary sector, the ALL hub meetings have been an essential and excellent form of CPD [continuous professional development]. I wish that they could run more often." The Thames Valley Hub meets once a term for 90 minutes after school in a primary school in Wokingham. This is a central location in the Thames Valley and teachers attend regularly from schools in West Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Reading, Bracknell, Slough and Maidenhead. These meetings are very much for teachers by teachers. It is a friendly group of professionals who are very willing to share their experience and expertise, as well as to Teaching together © SHUTTERSTOCK

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