The University of Sunderland is telling trainee teachers not to play down their native accents. It comes amid controversy suggesting some teachers from ‘up North’ have been urged to shake off their local twangs and adopt a more southern pronunciation in the classroom.
But teaching leaders at the University of Sunderland say they are actively encouraging their trainees to embrace their accents and be proud of where they come from.
Mikeala Morgans, Programme Leader in BA (Hons) Primary Education QTS at the University of Sunderland, said: “It is disappointing that some trainee teachers feel pressurised into changing their accents.
“Whilst it is an important aspect of the Teachers’ Standards (2012) that all teachers should use Standard English and have high levels of articulacy, this does not mean that regional accents should be altered.
“In fact, within our Initial Teacher Training programmes at the University of Sunderland, we go to great lengths to teach trainees about the difference between Standard English and accent, and encourage them to embrace, celebrate and be proud of where they come from.
“Many of our academic team come from the North of England and the North East in particular; I hope that we demonstrate to our trainees that you can speak accurately and with authority whilst still having a lovely regional accent.”
A new book – Accent and Teacher Identity in Britain: Linguistic Favouritism and Imposed Identities – by Dr Alex Baratta, from the University of Manchester, sparked the debate after claims some Northern teachers were encouraged to drop their regional tones. Those with accents from the North of England and the Midlands were, among other things, urged to say “barth” instead of “bath”.
The debate has prompted calls for a national discussion on whether the Teaching Standards should set out which types of accents and pronunciations are appropriate for teachers to use.
For example, the standards – which set the minimum requirements for teachers’ practice and conduct – could look at whether teachers who move to a different part of the country should adapt their accents to match the area they teach in.
The University of Sunderland’s Undergraduate Prospectus for 2019 even has its own ‘Mackem Translation Guide’ which gives potential new students tips on the local dialect and accent. Words including ‘ha’way’,’marra’ and ‘dinnit’ top the list in the guide.
Earlier this year it was reported the Met Office was considering whether introducing regional dialect would increase the public’s understanding of weather forecasts.
A survey of 2,000 people in January 2018 found disparities between how people across the UK describe the weather, with people in Leeds and Newcastle often saying “chucking it down” to describe heavy rain, while those further south might say “bucketing down”.