Talk Like Sean...pupils barred from slang in the classroom - SHOULD DIALECT BE ALLOWED IN SCHOOLS?

SEAN BEAN UNVIELS SHEFFIELD LEGENDS PLAQUE  Sean Bean meets fans at Sheffield Town Hall.  16 January  2010
SEAN BEAN UNVIELS SHEFFIELD LEGENDS PLAQUE Sean Bean meets fans at Sheffield Town Hall. 16 January 2010

THA’s got to speak reight if tha wants to get on in life.

That’s the message at a Sheffield secondary where pupils are being told to speak correctly in school - barring slang and local dialect from the classroom.

Youngsters at Sheffield Springs Academy in Arbourthorne were reminded of the importance of good language skills during assembly.

And the issue has sparked healthy debate among parents, some of whom pointed out that a choice bit of Sheffieldish never hindered Sean Bean or Arctic Monkeys from getting to the top.

Kathy August, deputy chief executive of United Learning Trust, the charity which runs the school, insists she has nothing children speaking in a Sheffield accent.

But she says students need to have good communication skills if they are to succeed current tough conditions in the world of work.

One mum said pupils had been told to stop talking Sheffieldish by the principal Elaine Cropper.

“Apparently if she hears anyone say ‘abaat’ as in ‘about’ she explodes. A few weeks ago she explained to the kids that she was brought up on a poor estate and that if she can succeed, everyone can.”

A Year 11 student said: “At the assembly the headteacher actually told us we must not use slang and she would prefer us to keep our ‘street words’ out of school.”

But Mrs Cropper has also received plenty of support for her stance.

One mum said: “I hope they are teaching kids how to speak correctly - I think it’s a real disadvantage in the world of work if you’re saying ‘reight’ and ‘abaat’ and so on. You can talk properly and still have an accent, many people can’t seem to understand this.”

Another said: “I do agree that kids should talk correctly in school so they know what to expect in the workplace.”

Mrs August said the intention was to help the students develop their communication and employability skills.

She said: “Too many young people are used to texting and talking slang all the time. But they need to understand that in interviews and other formal situations that is not advisable.

“We are not trying to stop them speaking with an accent or get them all speaking the same - I’m a proud Lancastrian myself.

“I understand that some parents will be defensive if they think we are trying to get rid of the Sheffield accent, but that isn’t the issue - it’s about communicating effectively.”

Dr Emma Moore, Sheffield University’s subject director in English language and linguistics, said historically people with regional dialects had suffered from discrimination.

“But Yorkshire dialects do particularly well in surveys in which they are often perceived to be more friendly and more trustworthy,” she said.

“It’s no longer the case that people assume that those with regional dialects aren’t well educated.”

Chris Montgomery, English language lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, added: “Language is a key part of regional identity and research shows that people with local dialects are seen as more authentic and more trustworthy.”