LAGB Education Sessions

These special sessions on ‘linguistics at school’ occupy a two-hour slot in every annual LAGB conference. They are held between 4.00 and 6.00 in the second or third afternoon of a regular LAGB meeting. Unlike all other parts of LAGB conferences, they are open to anyone without payment of the usual conference fee.

For more information about the conference venue – e.g. how to get there – see the second circular for the conference on the LAGB web site or on the site indicated below.

Historical note: This series of meetings, under the aegis of the Education Committee, followed an earlier series called the ‘Educational Linguistics section‘, which was started in September 1983.

29. 2022. Language analysis in UK schools: some case studies

28. 2021. Linguistics and Community Languages in Schools

Background: Over one million UK school children speak another language in addition to English at home (Naldic, 2015). Despite the fact that the vast majority of state (86%) and independent (83%) schools report supporting community languages (Tinsley Report, 2019), a major recent report by the UK national academies nonetheless highlights the minimal impact that these languages have on language learning in mainstream UK schools:

There is a disconnect between mainstream education and community-based language learning. […] It is scarcely ever connected up with the learning done by the same children in mainstream schools. (The British Academy et al., 2019, 5)

Putting to one side the issue with language qualifications this year, due to the Covid-19 crisis, entries for GCSE and A-level in community languages are slowly rising, unlike mainstream modern foreign language entries (Tinsley, 2017). As the UK addresses its so-called ‘languages crisis’ (Bowler 2020), there is huge potential for community languages to play a more central role in language learning in schools. Linguistics should also play a role in the transformation of languages. In this webinar, we welcome contributions which address the question of how linguistics can play a role in the improved integration and utilization of mainstream and community language study in schools. Possibilities include teaching about language variation/multilingualism in schools so that heritage speakers can better understand how and why their home language may differ from the standard variety, or approaches which help multilingual pupils capitalize on their knowledge of a home language in the English or languages classroom. Contributions are welcome in relation to any community language.

Date: Held online on 9 September 2021

Session organiser/chair: Eva Duran Eppler


  • Ian Cushing (Brunel University), Alexandra Georgiou (University of Nicosia), and Petros Karatsareas (University of Westminster), Language policing in mainstream and complementary schools in England
  • Anik Nandi (Leiden University), Multilingualism in Northern Ireland: School practices around immigrant community languages
  • Sabine Little (University of Sheffield), From Lost Words to Lost Wor(l)ds – Supporting Multilingualism in the Classroom  slideshow

27.  2019. The drop in uptake of English Language A-level

Call: In this year’s LAGB EC session we will discuss potential reasons for the drop in uptake of English A-level, particularly the enrolment in English Language and English Language and Literature.

Date: September 11, 2019, 16.30-18.30, @ QMUL

Session organiser/chair: Eva Duran Eppler


  • Willem Hollman, Lancaster University, is going to explore the Russell Group’s facilitating subjects list in the broader context of trends in A-level uptake and UCAS applications. Handout
  • Diane Leedham, NALDIC, will address the role the new GCSE seems to play in this trend.  Handout
  • David Duff, CEF, will supply context on A-level enrolments/ university admissions and how these are monitored within other branches of English. He will furthermore present the Common English Forum position statement on the topic.
  • Michelle Sheehan is going to report on the Department for Education’s response to it. Slideshow
  • Devyani Sharma will talk about her experience with working sociolinguistics into the school curriculum. Slideshow
  • Dick Hudson will introduce the session with some historical background. Slideshow

One slot will be reserved for discussion of further reasons for the drop in uptake of English Language A level and what the LAGB EC and other bodies can do to address them.

26. 2018. The UK Linguistics Olympiad

Call:  We would like to use this year’s LAGB EC session to celebrate the UK teams’ achievements in the Linguistics Olympiad over the past nine years, identify factors that have contributed to this success, and build a forward strategy, particularly on how we can support state school teachers in their efforts to involve students. We have invited a gold medal winner, Sam Ahmed, and members of the test development (Babette Newsome), training (Graeme Trousdale) and events (Neil Sheldon) groups to outline how problem sets are developed and tested, how participating schools are supported, participants are trained, how the events leading up to the Olympiad are organized and how medals are won. In a plenary discussion we would like to pool ideas for a forward strategy on how to involve state schools in UKLO and how to bridge the gap between schools and linguistics in Higher Education.

Date: 4.30-6.30 Thurs 13 Sept 2018, University of Sheffield

Chair: Gary C Wood (Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy) [replaced at the last minute by Hannah Leach]

Organiser: Eva Duran Eppler


    • Babette Verhoeven (Test development team)  University of Huddersfield: powerpoint slides
    • Graeme Trousdale & Trevor Beers (Training team) Edinburgh University: powerpoint slides
    • Neil Sheldon (Events team): powerpoint slides
    • Ben Randall Shaw (Westminster School) and Sarah O’Keeffe (UKLO participants)

25. 2017. Grammar teaching across the curriculum

Abstract/call: This year’s LAGB Education session builds on what we explored in 2014 and 2015 and focuses on grammar teaching across the curriculum at secondary school level in a national and international context.

Date: Weds 6 Sept 2017, University of Kent at Canterbury

Session organiser/chair: Eva Duran Eppler

  • Speakers:
    • Sofie Ljungbo Jensen. “Almen Sprogforståelse”, an interdisciplinary grammar course taught in Danish upper secondary education will be presented in more detail than in 2014. Based on data generated from students’ final tests and interviews about their learning, Sofie Ljungbo Jensen will introduce how exercises in analysis of morphology and syntax are aimed at increasing students’ awareness of structures in their own language and connections between languages (Danish, Latin, English, German, French and Spanish).
    • Ian Cushing. He  will discuss how secondary school English teachers can make use of cognitive stylistics and literary linguistics in their pedagogical practice. His discussion will be based on data generated from a series of KS3 lessons, exploring the potential of a fully-contextualised and ‘concept-driven’ approach to the teaching of grammar and how this compares with Almen Sprogforståelse.
    • Jessica Clapham, Susan Chapman and Lise Fontaine. They are going to introduce the LLAWEN Metalinguistic Awareness Mentoring project which seeks to equip teachers with the confidence and skills to successfully implement the grammar component of the new Welsh embedded literacy curriculum in secondary schools. The speakers will discuss the pros and cons of ‘properties and categories’ and ‘functional’ approaches to grammar teaching.
    • In a round table and plenary discussion the three proposals for teaching grammar across the curriculum at secondary school level will be compared to elicit how the Danish, English and Welsh projects can mutually benefit from each other.
  • Notes from the meeting

24. 2016.Communicating with other worlds: Formal linguistic second language acquisition research and language teaching

Date: 8th Sept 2016, 4-6, York University)

Abstract: Formal linguistic second language acquisition research and the practice of language teaching share the same focus, namely the development of non-native language knowledge. Yet interactions between these two endeavours are rare. One practical reason for this is the absence of forums for such interaction. For example, conferences tend to be either research-focussed or profession-focussed. Another reason is that formal linguistic SLA research has not been widely communicated in non-technical language. We take the view that there are a lot of findings from this body of research that would be useful and informative for language teachers, and that the research community should take up the challenge to disseminate findings in an accessible way for a teacher audience. In this session, we showcase some examples of attempts to do this, at both the practical level, by holding events that specifically target both teachers and researchers; and at the level of research design, where research grounded in linguistic theory has been conducted with the involvement of teachers or with the practicalities of the classroom in mind. Finally, we present some bitesize talks in pecha kucha style, as examples of a different and potentially more accessible mode of communication about second language acquisition research.

The session (programme) will be chaired by Eva Eppler and will consist of:

    • Two invited talks (30 mins each):
        • Florence Myles (Essex): ‘The role of ‘chunks’ in second language learning and teaching’ (slides)
    • Three Pecha Kucha style talks:(7 mins each)
        • Vivienne Rogers (Swansea) ‘Is there a link between learning words and learning grammar?’ (unable to take part)
    • Discussion (20 mins)

23. 2015.Bilingualism and cognition

Date: 17 Sept 2015, UCL London

With the aim of promoting community languages and MFLs within the UK’s educational system, the LAGB Education Committee is planning a session on “Bilingualism and Cognition” this year. Research has so far not found disadvantages to bilingualism and if a difference is found between monolinguals and bilinguals, it is invariably in favour of bilinguals. This applies to cognitive and linguistics aspects of bilingualism, such as attention and executive function, as well as academic, social and economic aspects. The panel of speakers is aiming to provide a balanced view of the topic with:

    • Antonella Sorace (Edinburgh) focusing on research on language and cognition in child bilingualism, and on the outreach work that the research-based information centre Bilingualism Matters is doing in the UK, in Europe and in the US. slideshow
    • Leah Roberts (York) focusing on how multiple languages are represented in the mind and brain, and how they interact during real-time language use.
    • Li Wei (UCL Institute of Education) focusing on how multilingual language users use an array of semiotic resources in everyday communication and the implications of such use for language and cognitive development.

A page of background information for this session.

22. 2014. Learning and teaching grammar across the curriculum (English and Foreign Languages)

Date: 4 Sept 2014, Oxford

Click here for a page of resources on this topic, including the presentations.

This LAGB EC session aims to explore how grammar teaching for English and Foreign Languages can feed off each other. The discussion will be introduced by presentations prepared by four members of the Education Committee:

    • Ian Cushing (English teacher)

(Unfortunately Ian can’t attend in person.) The presentation will leave plenty of time for discussion. Here are two abstracts:

From Sarah Campbell

On at least two occasions in the last forty years, significant efforts have been made by academics and teaching professionals to explore and promote collaborative grammar teaching between English and Modern Foreign Language departments; an endeavour which could be readily imagined to have great value for pupils in both subject areas.

Yet despite both the recognition that a shared approach to the teaching of grammar could benefit pupils, and the short and medium term success of a variety of interesting and effective projects, meaningful collaboration between ‘language’ teachers of both kinds has failed to find a long term foothold in the curriculum.

We will explore the issues relating to this recent history, as well as looking at current examples of best practice. We will ask whether now, against the background of a new National Curriculum, KS2-KS3 transition issues in MFL, and a rise in the profile of Global Citizenship education, the time might be ripe to consider how a new drive towards the embedding of collaborative grammar teaching might look.

From Ian Cushing

Debates about and the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of grammar teaching in the English classroom have been ongoing for years. How can grammar be taught as to make it meaningful for students? How can complex grammatical concepts be explored in stimulating and engaging lessons? Why should grammar be taught, and what are the impacts on raising attainments in schools? And finally, are English teachers sufficiently trained in language to do so? This talk will explore recent changes in attitudes towards English grammar teaching, an outline of existing practice, looking ahead to the new National Curriculum and practical issues in modern day secondary schools.

Contextualised, embedded approaches to grammar teaching have been the focus of a number of studies, articles and debates in recent years. Research (Myhill, 2012; Watson, 2012; Hudson, 2001) suggests that students who are taught grammar in this manner will show a heightened awareness and appreciation of language and linguistics, demonstrated by an ability to write with more maturity and read with a more analytical judgement. On paper, this makes perfect sense – you can teach someone the names of bicycle parts, but this does not mean they will be able to tell you how the bicycle works. The same is true of language – you can train a student to spot and name distinct grammatical parts of speech – but they will not be able to tell you how the language works as a whole. In an ideal world, grammar teaching should be fully integrated into the English curriculum: grounded in real life examples that show language in real usage; metalinguistic terminology used appropriately; an encouragement to play and actively craft language.

However, in practice there are a number of obstacles in the way of English teachers who are all in favour of this approach. Subject knowledge is one of those obstacles regularly referred to. How is a cohort of English teachers primarily trained in Literature expected to know (and be able to teach) elements of Linguistics? This talk will argue that they shouldbe expected to know – consider the opposite: how are English teachers primarily trained in Linguistics expected to know elements of Literature? The answer is, that they should know, and that they do – through self-training, CPD, and genuine interest.

Another obstacle to such a vision of successful, happy and effective grammar teaching is a more practical one: workload requirements and time constraints. Schools are extremely busy places, with an array of pressures from all corners: students, management, parents and exam boards. How do we convince busy teachers that a cross-curricula approach is of worthy merit?

So potential topics for discussion:

    • What (if any) is the impact of these changes on the teaching of Foreign Languages?
    • What (if any) is the potential impact on English grammar teaching of the introduction of compulsory foreign language teaching in primary schools from Key Stages 1- 2?
    • Should the LAGB EC comment on the draft criteria for GCSE in Foreign Languages?

Click here for a page of resources on this topic, including the presentations.

21.2013. Towards an A-level in linguistics?

Date: 29 August 2013, SOAS

We think it’s time to revisit the possibility of launching an A-level exam in Linguistics. Since our previous discussion of this issue in 2005, a lot has happened – A-levels are under review, the exam in English Language has continued to thrive, foreign languages have continued to decline, new A-levels have been launched in comparable subjects (Creative Writing and Anthropology) and, most important of all, the UK Linguistics Olympiad has revealed an enormous untapped enthusiasm in our schools for analysis of language structure, with 3,000 entries in 2013. This olympiad joins the established competitions in STEM subjects such as Maths and Physics, but, uniquely, our subject is not yet part of the school curriculum. Is the world ready for an A-level in linguistics? If so, what steps do we need to take to introduce it? And what would it consist of? These are some of the questions that face us.

Planned speakers include:

    • Neil Sheldon (Manchester Grammar School and vice-chair of UKLO)

Deleted: The Chair will be Graeme Trousdale (Edinburgh).

20. 2012. Grammatical terminology

Date: 6 September 2012, Salford

The session will be devoted to the following question:

Is a unified terminology possible for grammar?

It will consider variation in terminology both across theories and also across object languages, and will consider it from two points of view: academic and pedagogical. Our research may push us towards diversity of terminology because categories in different languages and different theories are fundamentally incommensurable; but pedagogy calls for a unified terminology, whether at undergraduate level or in the schools (where grammatical analysis is now firmly embedded in the curriculum). Can the needs of research be reconciled with those of pedagogy? And is there a role for the LAGB, e.g. in commissioning a project on grammatical terminology for schools? (See the historical note below for background to the discussion.)

Speakers (both from the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Manchester):

Chair: Dick Hudson – powerpoint slides

Historical note: This isn’t a new issue!! Henry VIII worried (and legislated) about the confusing terminology of grammar; and our meeting will (almost) mark the centenary of the publication (in 1911) of the report of the ‘Joint Committee on Grammatical Terminology’ which promoted a unified terminology. This project divided academic linguists, with Sonnenschein on one side and Jespersen on the other, and its failure probably hastened the death of grammar in both universities and schools. (For more details, click here.) A hundred years later, can we do better? The immediate context is a draft curriculum for primary English which you can download here, and which includes a grammar glossary which is separately available here.

19.2011. The UK Linguistics Olympiad

Date: 9 September 2011, Manchester

The session will be devoted to the UK Linguistics Olympiad (a competition in which school children solve linguistics data problems). The speakers will be:

    • A school student’s perspective: Nathan Somers (member of the UK team 2010)

The discussion will cover all aspects of these olympiads, including their implications for the future of linguistics in schools.

18. 2010. Corpora in teaching

Date: 3 September 2010, Leeds

The discussion will address the use of corpora in teaching at both school and university level. The speakers will be:

17. 2009. Typology for schools

Date: 7 September 2009, Edinburgh


    • Grev Corbett: Words: forms, uses and complexity
        • The powerpoint show that he used in pdf form (6 Mb).

The speakers will present topics and materials that might be used in schools.

16. 2008. Foreign languages: changes at school (and university?)

Date: 12 September 2008, University of Essex, Colchester

Deleted: How changes in primary and secondary education will affect future undergraduates, and how universities can help. The speakers will be:

    • Teresa Birks (Higher Education Advisor, CILT)

Note: Exceptionally, this session will end formally at 3.20 because of a conflicting item in a parallel session, but those who wish to will be able to continue the discussion till 4.00.

15. 2007.Talking to schools

Date: 31 August 2007, Kings College London

How do linguists in HE talk to teachers and students in schools?

14. 2006. How can linguists help schools?

Date: 1 September 2006, Newcastle

More specifically, how can linguists help by providing material for use by teachers? Speakers will be:

    • Sue Barry (Manchester Metropolitan) on phoneme-grapheme correspondences for primary literacy. presentation
    • Mick Connell (School Improvement Adviser for Rotherham) on English 5-16. slide-show

13. An A-level in Linguistics?

Date: 1 September 2005, Cambridge

Presentation from Subject Centre Special Interest Group on Language at School. (A similar presentation will be given at the Institute of Education, London, 2.30-4.00 on Oct 26th 2005.)

    • Speakers: Billy Clark (Middlesex), Judith Broadbent (Roehampton), Dick Hudson (UCL) and Graeme Trousdale (Edinburgh)

12. 2004. Teaching linguistics to students of Modern Languages

Date: 31 August 2004, Roehampton


    • Paul Rowlett (University of Salford) – handout
    • Florence Myles (University of Southampton) – powerpoint

11. 2003. A-Level English language

Date: 5 September 2003, Oxford


    • Tim Shortis (Chief Examiner, AQA English Language Board and University of Bristol School of Education): What A Level Language students are bringing with them to Higher Education.

      This talk explained the structure of the new AS and A2 A Level Level courses following the revisions made to GCE in 2000. It outlined the the numbers following courses in Language, the six module structure and the assessment objectives. It noted some of the continuity and progression issues relating to GCSE and to Higher Education

    • Andrew Moore (School Improvement Service of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council) : Linguistics in schools – A-level English language: is it broken and can we fix it? complete paper

10. 2003. Community languages

Date: 15 April 2003, Sheffield

Chair: Anthea Fraser Gupta


    • Mahendra Verma (University of York)
    • Mike Reynolds (University of Sheffield and Sheffield Multilingual Forum)

Urdu in Sheffield – (download paper)

        • Arvind Bhatt (Crown Hill Community College, Leicester).

9. 2002. Why education needs linguistics 

Date: 2.00-4.00, 18 September 2002, UMIST

Deleted: Dick Hudson will lead a discussion of the various contributions that linguistics can make to school-level education, and also of the ways in which linguistics stands to gain from this link.

8. 2002. Linguistics in teacher education 

Date: 10 April 2002, Edge Hill College

7. 2001. Why are the British such poor language learners?

Date: 5 September 2001, University of Reading

6. 2001. Phonics and accents of English

Date: April 2001, University of Leeds

    • Chair: Sue Barry (University of Manchester & LAGB Education Committee)

5. 2000. Grammar teaching and the development of writing skills 

Date: September 2000, University of Durham

    • Chair: Anthea Fraser Gupta (University Leeds & LAGB Education Committee)
    • Speakers:
      • Geoff Barton (Thurston Community College, Suffolk): A view from a secondary school.
      • Jim Crinson (Collingwood Primary School, North Shields): A view from a primary school
      • Raphael Salkie (School of Languages, University of Brighton): A view from teacher training

 4. 2000. The National Literacy Strategy

Date: April 2000, UCL

    • Chair: Richard Hudson (UCL & LAGB Education Committee)
    • Speakers:
      • Paul Higgins (DfEE)
      • Molly Sayer (University of Manchester)

  3. 1999. English language A-levels

Date: September 1999, University of York


2. The National Curriculum for English: a place for linguists?

Date: April 1999, The University of Manchester

1. 1998. Language issues in the school curriculum: an overview

Date: September 1998, University of Luton

Speaker: Dick Hudson (University College London)

The Educational Linguistics Section

This section organised the following discussions at regular LAGB conferences:

    • March 1991: Assessing speaking and listening. (panel: Maggie MacLure, Gillian Brown, Joan Swann)
    • September 1986: How homogeneous is the grammar of British English? (panel: John Harris, Jim Miller, Mark Sebba)
    • April 1986: The synchronic organization of English spelling. (panel: Gillian Brown, Ted Carney, Richard Coates; chair: Mike Stubbs)
    • September 1984: Language and sexism
    • April 1984: Higher level differences between speech and writing.
    • September 1983: Linguistic equality (speakers: Margaret Deuchar, Dick Leith, Jim Milroy)

The discussions are reported in papers in the CLIE Working Papers series, which also list the (many) speakers who contributed to the discussion.