The LASER launch event, British Academy, Monday 11th March 2019

[See the separate page for material added since this event.]

Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER), a new campaigning group approved by BAAL and the LAGB, will hold its official launch event on Monday 11th March 2019, kindly hosted by the British Academy in London. The event is free to attend and we invite teachers, academics, members of exam boards and any other interested parties to join us in discussing potential uses of language analysis in schools in relation to any academic discipline; our goals and assumptions are already spelt out in a manifesto which will provide the focus for the discussion. The day will consist of a number of talks, followed by an open discussion period, during which we will discuss our aims and make concrete plans for implementing them.  Come and get involved and share your ideas, enthusiasm and expertise! Places are limited, so if you are planning to attend, please register online via the form below, and please help us to spread news of this event to interested parties via social media and personal networks.


  • 10.00-10.15 Registration (but please preregister online – see below).
  • 10.15-10.30 Welcome by LASER steering group (Dick Hudson,
    Michelle Sheehan & Graeme Trousdale) & Professor Neil Kenny, (Lead Fellow for Languages at the BA).
  • 10.30-11.00 Professor Bas Aarts (UCL, Director of Englicious and of the Survey of English Usage).
    • Linguistic analysis in schools: the Englicious approach. In my talk I will introduce the Englicious project, an online platform for teachers in primary and secondary schools that helps them deliver the specifications for Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling in the National Curriculum ( I will argue that LASERs’ promotion of linguistic analysis (LA) in school curriculums is important, but that it can only be taught successfully if it is done engagingly. I will show how the LA activities on the Englicious website can help bring this about.
  • 11.00-11.30 Ian Bauckham (Headmaster, Chair of the TSC Report on FL Pedagogy).
    • Intrinsic interest and explicit instruction: insights of LA in reforming MFL pedagogy in English schools. Foreign languages in schools are in a very challenging situation. In secondary schools, after key stage 3, around half of all pupils discontinue the study of languages and do not take a GCSE. At A Level (and thus also in universities) uptake is in crisis. In this context Ian Bauckham undertook a review of pedagogy in languages for the DfE, and concluded that serious shortcomings existed which led to poor progress and low levels of self-efficacy. In this talk he will explore these issues and point to ways in which the new DfE-funded Centre for Excellence at York University is using this analysis to develop new, evidence-informed approaches for schools.
  • 11.30-11.45 Coffee break.
  • 11.45-12.15 Professor Paul Glaister (University of Reading, Immediate Past Chair of the Joint Mathematical Council of the UK (JMC)) & Neil Sheldon (Vice chair of the UK Linguistics Olympiad, former Vice President of the Royal Statistical Society, and former Second Master at Manchester Grammar School).
    • From numbers to insight. This session will look at the importance of language in mathematics (Paul) and statistics (Neil). The common thread is that both disciplines derive their importance from applications in the real world, involve problem-solving, require the interpretation of results, and rely on inference and proof. Students need to be able to use language with care and precision to analyse real-world situations, formulate questions and reach justified conclusions. This focus on the use of language is increasingly important as the school educational system changes to recognise that many of the traditional skills of calculation, manipulation and graphical representation are now best carried out using technology.
  • 12.15-12.45 Discussion of first three talks.
  • 12.45-1.45 Lunch – served at the British Academy.
  • 1.45-2.15 Dr Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin University, Reader in Linguistics and Project Lead on Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages).
    • Linguistics: bridging the content/skills divide in secondary Modern Foreign Languages. The new Modern Foreign Language (MFL) A level aims to equip pupils not only with (i) high-level language skills but also with (ii) the ability to learn other languages and (iii) analytical/critical skills applied to “language, culture and society” (DfE 2015:3, my italics). Linguistics is singularly well-placed to contribute towards these core aims but exam board specifications have not yet capitalized on this fact. Moreover, initial results from the Linguistics in MFL project ( suggest that: (i) A-level pupils and their teachers find linguistics topics interesting and accessible and (ii) studying language from an analytic perspective can help improve language confidence. There are obvious barriers to the inclusion of linguistics in language A levels, however, which I will also discuss, not least prescriptivist views of language, but challenging these should, I will argue, be a core function of the analytic study of any language.
  • 2.15-2.45 Rachel Hawkes (Co-Director National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP), Cam Academy Trust, FL teacher and author, past President of ALL).
    • Making (language learning make) sense. For teachers and learners of FL, a key benefit of an analytic approach to language learning is its tapping into the connection between deeper understanding, learning success and motivation. NCELP’s approach to FL pedagogy is both research-led and practice-informed, taking into account the time-poor context of UK curriculum FL learning. The recent MFL Pedagogy Review recommendations include principles for teaching phonics, vocabulary, grammar and their combination in meaningful practice. In this talk, I focus briefly on each of these three pillars, drawing attention to the aspects of synergy with LA. Wearing my other hat, I also include a few examples of FL and English language teacher collaboration in the areas of vocabulary and grammar from schools within The Comberton Academy Trust.
  • 2.45-3.15 Deborah Pearson (AQA, Head of Curriculum for English)
    • The assessment journey for AQA GCSE English Language. My presentation will offer a walk through the assessment journey offered through AQA GCSE English Language, including the Non Examination Assessment for Spoken Language. This will provide an opportunity to understand each question asked of pupils across both papers and insight into the levels of language analysis skill required in an untiered, linear assessment. Sample assessment materials will be available and examples of supporting materials for teachers. There will also be an opportunity to look at examples of student responses.
  • 3.15-3.30 Tea break.
  • 3.30-5.00 General discussion: where do we go from here?



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