Teachers under pressure to lose regional accents

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Trainee teachers with regional accents are being told by their mentors to speak “the Queen’s English” when in the classroom.

Research involving trainees working in schools in the South of England has found that it is common for mentors to ask teachers to modify how they speak.

Dr Alex Baratta, a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Manchester, found that “almost all” of the teachers involved in his study had been asked to change how they speak.

One participant from the Midlands claimed that a mentor with a southern accent said that she’d be “best to go back to where you came from”, in relation to her pronunciation of “a” and “u”, as in “bath” and “bus”.

Dr Baratta said: “The trainee teachers I spoke to believe that they are being judged for how they speak and not what they say and asking them to modify their accents made them feel inferior.

“There is a respect and tolerance for diversity in society, yet accents do not seem to get this treatment – they are the last form of acceptable prejudice. One teacher told me that it makes no sense that teachers have to sound the same, but teach the children to be who they are.”

In separate research published earlier this year, Dr Baratta also found that teachers in schools in the North of England felt under pressure to hide their regional accents.

In 2014 Dr Baratta conducted the first study into how accent modification in Britain affects the way people feel about themselves.

He found that many people felt like fakes for “poshing up” their accents to fit in to certain work and social situations, threatening their personal identities and often causing anger and frustration.

Dr Baratta added: “While Received Pronunciation or the Queen’s English was historically regarded as the most prestigious accent, there is evidence to suggest its influence is less pervasive nowadays amid growing recognition of, and respect for, regional accents.

“We live in a society in which equality is championed and diversity is celebrated, certainly within the workplace, so why does it feel as if the teaching profession is completely discarding the unique richness that comes with regional accents.”

For more information on Dr Baratta’s work, visit www.accentpride.co.uk


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