Sheffield Springs academy, which is based in one of the most deprived parts of the city, asks students to use standard English inside the school gates.
The United Learning Trust (ULT), a charity that runs the school, said the policy had been introduced so that pupils could recognise what kind of language was acceptable between friends and what would be suitable in more formal situations.
The school had an ethos that “the street stops at the gate”, said Kathy August, ULT’s deputy chief executive. Pupils were told to replace hiya, cheers and ta with good morning and thank you.
“We want to make sure that our youngsters are not just leaving school with the necessary A to Cs in GCSEs, but that they also have a whole range of employability skills,” August said. “Understanding when it is and is not acceptable to use slang or colloquial language is just one part of this.”
August was previously a headteacher of Manchester Academy, where she forbade pupils from using the word “innit” when talking to teachers.
“You can get five A* to Cs in your exams, but if you go to an interview and you can’t shake hands, look someone in the eye and speak in the appropriate register, you are not going to get the job or place at university,” August said at the time.
“It is hugely important. We have high expectations. It makes me angry when I see pamphlets on drug education or anti-gang material. They are appalling. The way they are written suggests that if you are black and from a particular postcode you will only understand the message if it is presented in a certain informal way, in a ‘street’ form. It enforces the stereotype and ends up glamorising what it is supposed to be preventing.”
At Sheffield Springs, sixth-formers wear suits rather than a conventional school uniform, to encourage a business-like approach to their work.
The school’s local MP, Angela Smith, said it would be difficult for teachers to distinguish between slang and dialect. “Who is going to say slang, dialect or accent? And which one is right and which one is wrong?” Smith said. “Most people know when to put on their telephone voice, because that is what we are talking about. When people go on the phone or talk to anyone in authority they put on a different voice.”