South London school bans "slang"

An "Academy School" (like US charter schools) in south London has banned "slang" from its student body, under the mistaken apprehension that English has a language academy that determines what is and is not correct speech. The argument is that privileged British people look down on people who talk "poor" -- using words like "woz" and "ain't" -- and that the inability to code-switch into rich-person's English makes it harder to get a job. There is some validity to this (that is, rich people are indeed bigoted against poor people), but my experience in my own neighbourhood is that people are perfectly capable of code-switching to formal registers if they want to.

In the meantime, the school is throttling the expressive potential of their kids' English (as a writer, it's totally obvious to me that "I wasn't doing nuffink" has a totally different flavour from "I did nothing" or "It wasn't me").

Academy Schools have a lot of freedom to diverge from the curriculum, to hire unusual instructors, and to try variations on school meals and other conventions. In theory, this makes room for schools that are freer and more student-oriented. In practice, many of them are run by Young Earth Creationists who teach that the universe is 5,000 years old; or sell sugary drinks and candy bars as a source of profit for the school's investors; or do sweetheart deals with preferred suppliers for mandatory, overpriced school uniforms that include some form of kickback for the school; or hire totally unqualified ideologues to teach the kids.

Academies are "selective schools," meaning that they can suck all the high-scoring kids out of the local state schools, which brings down the average performance of the state schools, costing them budget and ensuring that parents will try to keep their kids out of them. And Academies are only accountable to the national government, instead of the local council, so if your local Academy is screwed up, your only real remedy is to ask your MP to raise a question about it in Parliament.

It's great if your neighbourhood Academy is a progressive hotbed of exciting educational ideas that uses community-based experts in its instruction and grows a garden to supplement the school dinners. But if it's a rent-seeking hotbed of loony Creationism and dumb ideas about policing language, it's still likely to be the only game in town for your kids, after the state school has been drained of any kid with the chance to go somewhere else, and then punished for failing.

In a statement, the school said: "In addition to giving students the teaching they need to thrive academically, we want them to develop the soft skills they will need to compete for jobs and university places.

"This particular initiative is just one of the many ways in which we are building the vocabulary of our students and giving them the skills they need to express themselves confidently and appropriately for a variety of audiences."

Terry Victor, editor of the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English said: "It's wrong.

"You cannot censor a young person's language, they're not talking about words that are offensive, they're talking about some of the words that politicians use.

"[The word] 'ain't' was around in the 19th Century, people like Dickens used it... and how many politicians have you heard say "basically" to begin a sentence?

"Yes, it's irritating but it's part of deliberate language."

Slang banned from Croydon school to improve student speech