UK: School bans youth slang and sees exam results soar

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jul 20 18:04:16 UTC 2008

School bans youth slang and sees exam results soar Julie Henry, Education
Last updated: 12:52 AM BST 20/07/2008
 A school has banned its pupils from using "street slang" as part of a
strict behaviour policy which is transforming its exam results.

Pupils are not allowed to use the phrase "innit" or other examples of
"playground patois" when talking to teachers. Formal language must be used
at all times in communications with adults and pupils have been told that
street slang should be "left at the school gates".

The measure, along with a strict uniform policy, is part of a tough stance
on discipline at Manchester Academy, in the city's deprived Moss Side area,
has restored order. Since the school became an academy in 2003, exam results
have improved from about 10 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs to
33 per cent and the proportion who leave without a job or college course to
go to is down from 26 to 6 per cent.

"Language is really important and we have to make sure pupils realise that,"
said Kathy August, the head teacher.

"You can get five A* to Cs in your exams but if you go to an interview and
you can't shake hands, look someone in the eye and speak in the appropriate
register, you are not going to get the job or place at university. It is
hugely important. We have high expectations. It makes me angry when I seeā€¦
pamphlets on drug education or anti-gang material. They are appalling. The
way they are written suggests that if you are black and from a particular
postcode you will only understand the message if it is presented in a
certain informal way, in a "street" form. It enforces the stereotype and
ends up glamorising what it is supposed to be preventing.

"There are 64 languages spoken at the school and 80 per cent of pupils are
from ethnic minority backgrounds," she added.

"We realised very early on that children were coming into the community and
picking up the lingo that young people use and that the intonation and
patterns of speech of formal language were lacking."

She said that the message had been drummed into pupils that street slang was
"just not academy".

Children are pulled up when using colloquialisms and told directly that it
is unacceptable. "You have to be consistent. We make it clear in our tone of
voice and with short imperatives that we are not happy. So it's not 'excuse
me, do you mind not doing that, it's not very nice'. We say 'Stop. We don't
do that. Thank you.'"* *
*Language that is 'just not academy'*

   - Ballin': Doing well

   - Blood: Friend

   - Buggin': To act in a crazy or strange way

   - Cuss: Defame

   - Hulk out: To lose one's temper

   - Innit? Isn't it? Is it? You know? Oh, really?

   - Kickback: A get-together

   - Laters: Goodbye

   - Na: No

   - Phat: Stylish, desirable

   - Rank: Disgusting, horrible

   - Rep: Reputation

   - Slammin': Pleasing to the eye

   - Safe: That's all right

   - Trill: Someone who is considered to be well-respected

   - Wack: Weak, boring

   - What you chattin' about?: Shut up, you are talking rubbish

   - Word: I understand, really

*Have your say: Should children be banned from using slang in schools?*
 Story from Telegraph News:

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