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Ark All Saints Academy in Camberwell, South London, has banned students from using “filler” slang and certain idioms in an effort to boost literacy amongst pupils. 

The school’s new policy includes barring terminology such as “like”, “basically” and “erm”, with other terms like “that’s long”, “bare” and “oh my days” also expected to get students in hot water. A major motivating factor in this banning of slang comes from a 2019 survey, which found slang to be the most significant contributing factor behind GCSE failure. 

“The development of reading and speaking skills is a central part of what drives our school to help our students learn effectively and fulfill their potential in academic and non-academic ways,” said Ark All Saints principal Lucy Frame. “None of the words or phrases listed are banned from general use in our school or when our students are interacting socially. But this list is used in some formal learning settings to help students understand the importance of expressing themselves clearly and accurately, not least through written language in examinations.”

Although the school hopes this ban will help the students progress academically, some of the terms in question are used frequently in music, literature and pop culture.

One of Ark All Saints’ banned terms, “He cut his eyes at me”, is a phrase used by the famed young novelist Lily Anderson. Also, “Oh my days” has appeared in numerous rap lyrics by artists such as Stormzy, meaning pupils are often immersed in the banned wording throughout day-to-day life.

In response to the banning of slang, some believe the move could alienate certain students.

Dr Natalie Sharpling, an applied linguistics lecturer at Warwick University, said: “It shouldn’t be about good or bad language—it should be about appropriate language for the context. You don’t want to make them feel they have to reject the cultural aspects of their own language.”

She added: “We should celebrate the different ways language is being used and concentrate on the content of what is being said. It would be a shame if it becomes a case of if you want to be successful, this is the way you have to speak.”

See the full list of banned words below:

Slang and Idioms

Ark All Saints Academy pupils must not use any of the following terms in any capacity:

  • He cut his eyes at me
  • Oh my days
  • Oh my God
  • That’s a neck
  • Wow
  • That’s long
  • Bare
  • Cuss

Fillers

Students must not use the following at the beginning of sentences:

  • Ermmm... 
  • Because... 
  • No...
  • Like...
  • Say...
  • You see...
  • You know...
  • Basically...