London school bans slang terms such as ‘like’ and ‘bare’ to raise literacy standards 

Slang terms including ‘like’ and ‘oh my days’ have been banned by a school to raise literacy standards.

Ark All Saints academy in south London has drawn up a list of phrases that pupils must avoid in class and in written work.

One is ‘he cut his eyes at me’, which the Collins dictionary says is Caribbean and means to turn away sharply while closing one’s eyes. 

Other words include ‘long’, meaning boring, or ‘bare’, meaning very.

‘Fillers’ – punctuating conversation with ‘like’ and ‘you see’ – is also forbidden as well as words including ‘basically’, ‘that’s long’, ‘that’s a neck’, ‘wow’, ‘cuss’ and ‘oh my god’.

Lucy Frame, the principal at the school in Camberwell, told the Guardian: ‘None of the words or phrases listed is banned from general use in our school or when our students are interacting socially.

Terms such as 'like' and 'oh my days' are banned at Ark All Saints in south London (file photo)

Terms such as 'like' and 'oh my days' are banned at Ark All Saints in south London (file photo)

 Terms such as ‘like’ and ‘oh my days’ are banned at Ark All Saints in south London (file photo)

‘But this list is used in some formal learning settings to help students understand the importance of expressing themselves clearly and accurately, not least through written language in examinations.’

One of the phrases, ‘Oh my days’, appears in lyrics by Stormzy and inspired a line of t-shirts after it found fame when used by footballer Jeremie Frimpong in a post-match interview. 

A 2019 survey found slang was the most common reason for English GCSE failures.

However, Dr Marcello Giovanelli, senior lecturer in English at Aston University, warned: ‘Dismissing students’ home or own use of language may have negative effects on identity and confidence.’

Tony Thorne, a language consultant at King’s College London and the director of the Slang and New Language Archive, said it wasn’t about ‘good or bad’ language but rather ‘appropriate language’ for the learning environment.

Dr Natalie Sharpling, who teaches applied linguistics at Warwick University, said language use should be celebrated. She said teachers should not worry about specific words but focus on the ‘content’.  

One of the phrases, 'Oh my days', appears in lyrics by Stormzy (pictured at Reading Festival in August) and inspired a line of t-shirts after it found fame when used by footballer Jeremie Frimpong in a post-match interview

One of the phrases, 'Oh my days', appears in lyrics by Stormzy (pictured at Reading Festival in August) and inspired a line of t-shirts after it found fame when used by footballer Jeremie Frimpong in a post-match interview

One of the phrases, ‘Oh my days’, appears in lyrics by Stormzy (pictured at Reading Festival in August) and inspired a line of t-shirts after it found fame when used by footballer Jeremie Frimpong in a post-match interview

She said it would be a shame if all students were taught they could only be successful by speaking a certain way. 

The south London school isn’t the only educator to try to curb the rise in GCSE failures because of use of slang.

Birmingham, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic school asks its pupils to achieve ‘eloquence’ by avoiding colloquialisms. 

Students are asked not to use works including ‘like’ or ‘so’ in their academic speech and writing. 

Slang and Idioms must be avoided… 

• He cut his eyes at me (he shot me a withering sidelong glance)

• Oh my days (my goodness)

• Oh my God

• That’s a neck (you need a slap for that)

• Wow

• That’s long (that’s boring, tough or tedious)

• Bare (very, extremely)

• Cuss (swear or abuse) 

Fillers are banned

The following words must not be used at the beginning of sentences: 

• Ermmm …

• Because …

• No …

• Like …

• Say …

• You see …

• You know …

• Basically … 

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