This article explores how academic linguists have become marginalised from policy-making aimed at reforming English teaching in English schools,and how they are now beginning to contribute again. A pluralistic model of interaction between central government politicians,linguists and media professionals is applied to two “critical incidents.” First, linguists were commissioned by the government a decade ago to produce materials for teaching English in the National Curriculum. The materials were rejected as reflecting the “progressive” educational ideology that ministers claimed had led to poor standards. Second, in 1998 the successor government introduced a “National Literacy Strategy” into primary schools, developed without linguists' input and reflecting a “traditional” view of language. The materials were flawed, prompting a constructive response by linguists that resulted in unpublicised modifications. Our model shows how linguists best serve theirinterest by staying out of the media spotlight while they engage in seeking common ground with government politicians.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alexander, Robin (1991). Primary education in Leeds: Twelfth and final report from the Primary Needs Independent Evaluation Project. Leeds: University of Leeds.
Alexander, Robin (1997). Policy and practice in primary education: Local initiative, national agenda, 2nd edn. London: Routledge.
Bacharach, Samuel & Lawler, Edward (1980). Power and politics in organisations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Ball, Stephen (1990). Politics and policy-making: Explorations in policy sociology. London: Routledge.
Blunkett, David (2000). Influence or irrelevance: Can social science improve government? Secretary of State's ESRC lecture speech, 2nd February 2000. London: Department for Education and Employment.
Bourne, Jill, Kress, Gunter, Street, Brian & Sealey, Alison (1999). The national literacy strategy: A debate. In Teresa O'Brien (Ed), Language and literacies (pp. 1-13). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Brumfit, Chris (1999). Applied linguistics and language policy for “English”: The British case. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics, Edinburgh.
Carter, Ronald (Ed) (1990). Knowledge about language and the curriculum: The LINC reader. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Carter, Ronald (1992). The LINC project: The final chapter? Mimeo. Nottingham: University of Nottingham.
Cheshire, Jenny (1996). Language policy and language practice in education. In George Blue & Rosamond Mitchell (Eds), Language and education (pp. 41-51). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Clarke, John & Newman, Janet (1997). The managerial state. London: Sage.
Cox, C. Brian & Dyson, Anthony E. (Eds) (1969). Fight for education: A black paper. London: The Critical Quarterly Society.
Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge encyclopedia of language, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Daily Mail (1991). Paint pot schools under fire. The Daily Mail, 2 November.
Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) (1998). The National Literacy Strategy. London: DFEE.
Department of Education and Science (DES) (1975). A language for life (The Bullock Report). London: DES.
Department of Education and Science (DES) (1988). Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Teaching of English Language. (The Kingman Report). London: DES.
Department of Education and Science (DES) (1989). English for ages 5-16 (The Cox Report). London: DES/Welsh Office.
Department of Education and Science (DES) (1991). Primary education: Statement by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. London: DES.
Elley, Warwick B. (1999). Grammar teaching (mother tongue). In Bernard Spolsky (Ed), Concise encyclopedia of educational linguistics (pp. 410-413). Oxford: Elsevier.
Fairman, Tony (1989). Writing descriptive grammars-part 2. British Association for Applied Linguistics Newsletter, 34, 7-20.
Giddens, Anthony (1984). The constitution of society. Cambridge: Polity.
Hargreaves, David (1996). Teaching as a research-based profession: Possibilities and prospects. The Teacher Training Agency Annual Lecture. London: Teacher Training Agency.
Hillage, Jim, Pearson, Richard, Anderson, Alan & Tamkin, Penny (1998). Excellence in research on schools. London: Department for Education and Employment.
Kogan, Maurice (1975). Educational policy-making: A study of interest groups and Parliament. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Labov, William (1969). The logic of nonstandard English. Georgetown Monographs on Language and Linguistics, 22, 1-31.
Pay the piper, call the tune (1993). The Independent, 9 September, p. 26.
Robins, Robert H. (1997). A short history of linguistics, 4th edn. London: Addison Wesley Longman.
Sealey, Alison (1999). Theories about language in the National Literacy Strategy. Coventry: Centre for Research in Elementary and Primary Education, University of Warwick.
Sebba, Judy (2000). Developing evidence informed policy and practice: A national perspective. Paper presented at the Sixth International Educational Management and Administration Research Conference, Cambridge.
Silcock, Peter (1999). New progressivism. London: Falmer.
Taylor-Gooby, Peter & Lawson, Robyn (1993). Where we go from here; the new order in welfare. In Peter Taylor-Gooby & Robyn Lawson (Eds), Markets and managers: New issues in the delivery of welfare. (pp. 132-149). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
Times Higher Educational Supplement (THES) (2000). Influence or irrelevance? Secretary of State David Blunkett asks whether social science can improve government policymaking, 4 February, pp. 36-37.
Tooley, James & Darby, Doug (1998). Education research: An OFSTED critique. London: Office for Standards in Education.
Wallace, Mike (1993). Discourse of derision: The role of the mass media within the education policy process. Journal of Education Policy, 8(4), 321-337.
Wallace, Mike (1995). The contribution of the mass media to the education policy process International Journal of Educational Reform, 4(2), 124-130.
Wallace, Mike (1998).Mutual parasitism and symbiosis: interaction between media professionals and sources with a stake in education policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, California.
Wardhaugh, Ronald (1999). Proper English: myths and misunderstandings about language. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wray, Alison (1996). The occurrence of “occurance” (and “alot” of other things “aswell”): Patterns of errors in undergraduate English. In George Blue & Rosamond Mitchell (Eds), Language and education (pp. 74-106). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Wallace, M., Wray, A. The Fall and Rise of Linguists in Education Policy-Making: From “Common Sense” to Common Ground. Language Policy 1, 75–98 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014552829698
- English teaching
- mass media
- mutual parasitism and symbiosis
- pluralistic perspective