WP275 Education, England & users of languages other than English

Rampton, Leung & Cooke


Over c.50 years, language education has been a significant site of ideological struggle over England’s position in the world, whether in processes of decolonisation or globalisation, and the last two decades have seen intensifications in the assertion of English nationalism in central government. Our discussion of this history starts with a glance back at the development of multicultural language education in the 1970s and 1980s, highlighting four factors that contributed to this: activist pressure from minority communities; educational philosophies valuing the ‘whole child’; educational decision-making embedded in local democratic structures; and a legislative strategy that combined the promotion of good community relations with restrictive immigration policies. This started to change in the 1990s, with the curriculum centralisation and the side-lining of local authorities initiated by the Thatcher government. Efforts to regulate substantially increased population movement also made borders and immigration status more of a priority than multiculturalism, and after 2001, security, social cohesion and the suspicion of Muslims started to dominate public discourse. These developments have can be traced in six areas of language education policy: standard English, English as an additional language for school students, English for adult speakers of other languages, modern languages, and community languages in mainstream and supplementary schools. In the final section, we reflect on the role of universities in the processes we describe