- The linguistic diversity of the UK presents a longstanding challenge for social equality and social mobility.
- Only a small proportion of the population speaks or writes a variety that would be considered standard English grammar, yet standard English is needed in professional life and to succeed in education.
- In schools, the National Curriculum requires students to be taught to use ‘standard English when the context and audience requires it’ (Department for Education 2014a); yet the available evidence indicates that this policy, intended to improve educational and social outcomes, has not been particularly successful.
- Educational and institutional policies do not usually take account of the fact that social and regional accents are often perceived negatively and can cause discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, in life-changing situations such as oral examinations, job interviews or legal contexts.
- The challenge has become even greater with the recent emergence of multiethnolects – new socially inclusive English dialects spoken in many multilingual urban centres – resulting from an increase in the amount and diversity of immigration.
- We provide four concrete policy recommendations based on research into developing multiethnolects in the UK:
1. Increase students’ exposure to standard English, while ensuring that they are not
discouraged from using non-standard English in appropriate contexts;
2. Commission the production of descriptions of local non-standard varieties for teachers;
3. Embed an understanding of non-standard varieties throughout the curriculum;
4. Outside education, promote the inclusion of language in equality and diversity policy.