A Sheffield school has reportedly barred slang from its classrooms: “We want to make sure that our youngsters are not just leaving school with the necessary A to Cs in GCSEs, but that they also have a whole range of employability skills,” a spokesperson told the media. “Understanding when it is and is not acceptable to use slang or colloquial language is just one part of this.” But should schools instead focus on teaching applicable skills for jobs that will exist – and should companies look at their employment strategy if they reject candidates simply because they say ‘Hiya’?
Sheffield Springs Academy has apparently asked students to use standard English inside its gates, in an effort to help them get jobs in the future.
Quoted in the Daily Mail, Kathy August, deputy chief executive of the United Learning Trust, which runs the school, said that the close relationships the school has with business and commercial partners meant that it knew that they are not only looking at qualifications, but also how candidates conduct themselves in interviews.
“Youngsters going to interviews for their first job need to make a good impression so that employers have confidence in them,” said Ms August.
“It’s not difficult to get youngsters out of the habit of using slang.”
How will the move be policed?
But local MP and former English teacher Angela Smith questioned the move: “The school is wrong to ban slang. How will the school police this?”
She also questioned the difference between slang and dialect, and asked who would adjudicate.
‘Local dialects more trustworthy’
Quoted in the Sheffield Telegraph, Chris Montgomery, English language lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Language is a key part of regional identity and research shows that people with local dialects are seen as more authentic and more trustworthy.”
One contributor to The Guardian’s comments section asked whether it would be more use to teach students skills for jobs which are actually going to exist, such as programming. ‘FinneyontheWing’ suggested companies that discriminate against competent candidates for saying ‘hiya’ rather than ‘good morning’ should “look at their recruitment strategy”.
Ta for the tea
“Equally, if you’re turned down because you said ‘ta’ when they handed you a cup of tea at the interview, I’d suggest having a rethink of whether or not you want to work for such an organisation,” he suggested.
What’s your view? Should ‘street speak’ be left at the school gates? And who decides when ‘slang’ becomes ‘local dialect’?