This article reports on a national survey of complementary school providers in Scotland to gain insights into their perspectives of the abrupt transition to online learning spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data gathered from a questionnaire (n=34) and in-depth interviews (n=13) covering 19 different heritage languages are analysed through the lens of practical evaluation, projective agency, and the concept of uncertainty in education. While teacher agency has been a subject of recent study and debate, there is limited research on enacting agency in complementary school settings, and in times of flux or disruption. The study sheds light on the ways in which school leaders developed and enacted agency on multiple levels and in complex and nuanced ways as schools adapted their diverse provision in the face of challenges triggered by Covid-19. Findings reveal that (i) emergency measures and subsequent closure of school sites led to further pressures and growing uncertainty for these schools and for the learners, families, and communities that they support, and (ii) the creation of online spaces provided opportunities for complementary schools to explore new tools and resources, facilitate innovative forms of learning and teaching, and extend the reach of their school. The article concludes with a consideration of new avenues for complementary school planning and provision, and implications for developing online learning spaces for heritage languages.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

Cite as

Hancock, J. & Hancock, A. 2024, 'School leaders as projective agents: Online spaces for heritage languages during Covid-19', Current Issues in Language Planning. https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2024.2309777

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Last updated: 15 March 2024
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