Secondary school bans students from using slang terms such as ‘like’ and ‘bare’

·3-min read
Secondary school pupils in a lesson (Getty Images)
Secondary school pupils in a lesson (Getty Images)

A London secondary school has “banned” its pupils from using slang, with phrases on the prohibited list including “that’s long”, “bare” and “oh my days”.

Students at the Ark All Saints Academy in southeast London are also not permitted to use the terms “basically”, “like”, and “you know” at the beginning of sentences.

As reported by The Guardian, the list of banned words and phrases only applies to formal learning situations and exams, and can still be used among pupils on the playground.

The school said the words have been “showing up a lot in pupils’ work”.

Lucy Frame, the principal of the Camberwell school, added that the list intends to “help students understand the importance of expressing themselves clearly and accurately, not least through written language in examinations”.

Speaking to The Guardian she added: “The development of reading and speaking skills is a central part of what drives our school to help our students learn effectively and fulfil their potential in academic and non-academic ways.

“None of the words or phrases listed are banned from general use in our school or when our students are interacting socially.”

The list also includes the phrase “he cut eyes at me”, which refers to looking at someone with disapproval or displeasure.

According to The Journal of American Folklore, the phrase originated in and around the African countries of Ghana and Nigeria and began as a show of anger and conflict between two people.

Some linguistic experts have warned against policing slang language.

In 2019, Ian Cushings, a lecturer in education at Brunel University London, carried out a study visiting schools across the UK and observing how they policed slang during lessons.

He argued that schools were using language as a “proxy for social factors such as academic achievement and employability”.

“There’s no incorrect or correct way of using language. Language is just one part of your identity – just the same way you wear your hair and clothes,” he told the BBC.

“Young people will police their own language - they don’t need other people to police it for them, they understand the context of their situation, and know when to shift it accordingly.

“Shakespeare is full of slang and we don’t see teachers banning that - there’s a hypocrisy here, which is rooted in cultural and linguistic snobbery.”

Dr Marcello Giovanelly, a senior lecturer in English language and literature at Aston University told The Guardian that slang has “always been at the forefront of linguistic innovation”.

He said “cut eyes at me” is a “wonderfully creative example” and that “dismissing students’ home or own use of language may have negative effects on identity and confidence”.

The full list of slang expressed banned by Ark All Saints is:

  • 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)

Students must also not use the following sentence fillers:

  • Ermmm …

  • Basically

  • Because …

  • No …

  • Like …

  • Say …

  • You see …

  • You know …

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