The BAAL Linguistics and Knowledge about Language in Education (LKALE) Special Interest Group is pleased to announce that this year’s meeting will be held on Friday July 5th, at St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford,hosted by the Applied Linguistics Research Group, Department of Education, University of Oxford.  The theme this year will be ‘Developing Reading’.

We are now inviting the submission of abstracts on reading, or any other research-oriented topic related to the BAAL LKALE SIG.

Information on submission deadlines, registration or travel can be found  here


ECIS MLIE Conference


A note for your diaries: the 2019 Multilingual Learning Conference (MLIE) s taking place in London, 1st-3rd March.  The conference theme is “Unity through Multilingualism: Growing Home, Host, and Instructional Languages” and it includes exciting presentations from several LKALE members, including Eowyn Crisfeld, Lise Fontaine, Constant Leung, Robert Sharples and Li Wei  (https://ecismlieconference2019.sched.com/directory/speakers).

See you in London!


2019 LKALE SIG meeting– watch the space!

We are very pleased to announce that the  next  LKALE SIG meeting will be hosted by the  Department of Education, University of Oxford (5th July 2019).

The theme of the meeting is ‘Developing Reading‘. More information on  speakers, key dates, accommodation and  travel will be posted here soon.

We look forward to seeing you in Oxford  soon(ish)!

Our new NEWS! section

Our new NEWS section is live! Do send us any calls, news, announcements, reports ..etc on Language and Education matters. We will try our best to help publicise them through our website.

LKALE Spring Meeting 27th and 28th April 2018 ‘Teaching grammar: from theory to policy and practice’

The 2018 BAAL LKALE two day symposium hosted by Urszula Clark at Aston University was the third LKALE annual event since its start in 2015. The symposium was well attended by academics working in the field of linguistics in education, teacher trainers, teachers, education consultants, and charities, as well as a speaker from the UK Parliament’s Universities Outreach Team. Although the main focus was on the UK context, a representative from MAZEM, a German education charity for advancing language awareness in the Early Years provision in southern Germany was also amongst the presenters.

In line with one of LKALE’s commitments, the event provided a space for specialists from all areas of education to meet and exchange ideas. There were sixteen presentations that focussed on educational contexts ranging from mainstream primary (including Early Years), secondary and tertiary education, English as an Additional Language and Modern Foreign Languages.

The presentations included practitioners’ accounts of implementing new strategies, academic researchers presenting innovative research projects, established charities and education authorities reporting on long term projects and success stories, as well as teacher educators highlighting key issues and making recommendations for change. As long term, effective change can only be brought about by well-informed policies, Caitriona Fleming’s presentation provided practical guidance on how professional bodies, such as LKALE can contact and inform policy makers in the Houses of Parliament regarding ongoing research and professional consensus on language issues relevant to the UK Education context.

Slides of the presentations can be found here.

Unpacking knowledge about language: what do we really need to know about language?

 The two days also provided the chance to unpack some of the complexities of the language system, and examine new approaches in applying aspects of this knowledge to pedagogical contexts. Questions were raised concerning the nature of knowledge about language itself: What does and should this knowledge look like? What aspects are important for who and at what level of learning? The general consensus was that it is the concepts behind the terminology that are important and should underpin any pedagogical initiative or intervention.

Issues and challenges

 With the continued changes made to the policies in schools, the dwindling of funds and shifting demographics, there are no shortages of challenges. The event gave attendees the opportunity to inform themselves of some of the real obstacles faced by practitioners. Common themes emerged: negative backwash resulting from high stakes testing, insufficient support for teachers in terms of initial teacher training and continued professional development, and lack of teacher confidence in knowledge about language, pedagogical content knowledge and language learning.

Moving forward

Despite these challenges, the event was imbued with a sense of exciting optimism. Organisations such as the English Media Centre, The WRITE project, and the Enfield School Improvement project all reported on interventions that had worked and had brought about long lasting change to both the learners and teachers involved.

Thank you to all the presenters, attendees and the event’s host, The School of Languages and Social Sciences at Aston University, for making the symposium such a great success.

Presentation slides will be added to the LKALE website in the very near future.

We look forward to seeing you all at the next LKALE SIG event at the University of Oxford on 2nd and 3rd May 2019!




Variations in aspects of writing in 16+ English examinations between 1980 and 2014.

by Urszula Clark

On 30th November 2016, Cambridge Assessment held a seminar to discuss the publication of its Report, Aspects of Writing 1980-2014.
This unique study is centred upon an analysis of sets of script samples undertake by students aged 16 years old as part of GCSE English, collected from 1980 onwards. This unique corpus offers an insight into variation and change in students’ creative, narrative writing practices, which this latest Report has charted over a 34 year period.

For me, three important aspects are highlighted by this study. Firstly, that students’ language use has become less complex in relation to sentence structure when writing in this genre. There has been a marked increase in the use of simple sentences and a lower incidence of multiple clause sentences with less subordination This should probably come as no surprise, given trends in prose fiction throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty first. Secondly, there is no evidence that students are using ‘text speak’ in their writing of creative narratives for examination purposes. Only one instance was found, ‘OMG’ from a grade E female candidate. Students also tended to use more paragraphs and proper nouns in 2014 than in previous years. Thirdly,examination standards have remained virtually static across the 34 year period, with a dip in the number of students obtaining grade D and below in 2014.

In relation to this third point, In her introduction to the seminar, Debra Myhill offers the possible explanation that teachers, given the emphasis upon students obtaining grades A-C, perhaps pay less attention to those who appear not to be capable of meeting the C grade threshold. Consequently, teachers may not pay them as much attention as those on the C-D borderline. It is also salutary to reflect that the 2014 cohort of students would have undertaken all of their schooling from infant, through junior to secondary years under the now defunct National Literacy Strategies (NLS). Whilst some aspects of spelling, punctuation and grammar appear to have improved over the time period, this improvement has not impacted very much upon the grades awarded. It would appear then, that the various NLS have had little effect upon improving the percentages of examination grades awarded overall.

I was invited to present a response to the Report at the seminar, and none of you will be surprised to hear that I extolled the virtue of teaching and learning grammar, not so much concerned with aspects of ‘correctness’, but with the expression of thought in a coherent and logical manner.

The Report is available on line, as is the seminar at: