Ofsted as institutional language police

On 31st March 2022, TES reported on research by Julia Snell (School of English) and her colleague Ian Cushing (Edgehill University) which exposes the role of the school’s inspectorate, Ofsted, as institutional language police. Julia and Ian systematically searched inspection reports of primary and secondary schools and found a huge number of reports where the inspectorate criticise teachers and pupils for speaking in “non-standard English”, while offering praise to schools where “non-standard” dialects and accents have been banned. Teachers and pupils whose speech adheres to Ofsted’s understanding of “Standard English” are equated not just with “correctness” but also with high ability and high-quality teaching: whereas the opposite is true for those who use “non-standard” forms. The most hostile comments about language were made in relation to schools serving low income and racially minoritised children. The journal article which reports the research in full is available open access in Language in Society. Ian and Julia have also written a summary for The Conversation.