Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford primary school curbing pupils' overuse of 'like'

Copthorne Primary Image copyright Google
Image caption Copthorne Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire, is rated "outstanding" by Ofsted

A primary school is stopping children from repeatedly using the word "like" in conversation due to its overuse.

Teachers at Copthorne Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire, are telling pupils to "park" filler words and consider what they want to convey.

The move, first reported in the Times, has also seen children encouraged to avoid single-word replies to questions.

It is to "enrich their language and allow them to express themselves with clarity", the head teacher said.

During lessons, if a child uses a sentence "peppered with likes" they are encouraged to work with a partner for five minutes to think about how else they could phrase the sentence.

A classroom wall includes alternative words to help widen vocabulary, the school said.

Christabel Shepherd, Copthorne's executive head teacher, said: "Our job is to make our children articulate, as it will open doors in future - if they can't articulate themselves lucidly, these doors aren't going to open.

"We have a generation who perhaps feel like they have to fill every second, but we say they can stop and think about it before they give a response."

She said the word had not been banned completely, but teachers were "picking children up on current idiosyncrasies in our language".

"Language can overcome social disadvantages and we can deal with current issues and prepare children for life after school," she added.

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, says oracy has been given "little attention" compared to reading, writing and arithmetic

Dr Emma Byrne, a scientist and author, said giving children a "richer vocabulary can only be beneficial".

"When people are speaking in a way that isn't scripted or prepared for a broadcast, about 20% of our language tends to be these filler words, 'like', 'kinda', 'sort of', 'um'.

"We use them as a way of saying, 'my turn's not over yet, I'm still saying something'."

Dr Byrne continued: "Quite often teachers have to tread this line between letting children express themselves as they are and preparing them for a world which can actually be quite harsh still."

Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, recently told a conference "little attention has been paid to the important role of oracy", with reading, writing and arithmetic the traditional focus.

An all-party parliamentary group was arranged in 2018 to "co-ordinate research, promote best practice and encourage the overarching principles of oracy in education and society at large".

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