European heritage languages in primary schools: understanding identity and pedagogy in multilingual London

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Language and Linguistics


This project will examine the impact recent changes in London's linguistic demography have had on the primary education sector and the influence of the Eurozone crisis on the diversification of heritage languages (HLs) in the area. It will investigate the role of multilingual pedagogy and transnational identities in post-Brexit England, with a focus on the Italian community.
I will identify the linguistic changes that have occurred in a South London borough since 2008 by analysing the language background of children in mainstream primary schools and track the changes after Brexit.
Building on this, I will explore how teachers use the linguistic repertoires of the children in their classrooms and analyse the teachers' belief. For my case study, I will interview children enrolled in Italian HL learning programmes, in order to understand how they develop a sense of self and self-perception, and intercultural sensitivity, as well as transnational identities (Vertovec, 2001).

This project sets out to examine the impact of the recent changes in London's linguistic demography on the primary education sector, through an exploration of the following three research questions:
1) What is the impact of the recent intra-European migration on the language background of children in London's primary schools?
2) How do primary school teachers use the linguistic repertoire in their classrooms and what teaching strategies have been adopted to promote European heritage languages?
3) How does multilingual pedagogy in community language schools support the development of transnational identities in the Italian community of London?
In view of the new socio-political scenario in the UK since the 2016 Referendum, I intend to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date overview for policy makers on the topic of heritage languages and transnational identities. I will integrate the evidence on how social policies have impacted the provision for students for whom English is an additional language (Costley, 2014). Through a case study, I will supplement the research on multilingual pedagogy and Italian as a heritage language in the UK with the objective of bridging the gap between the world of monolingual education and the reality of multilingual families, and contribute towards a language education that respects the needs of today's mobile and
fast-developing society.
The study will employ a mixed methods approach in which I will use both quantitative and qualitative research methods and I will make use of the following data collection tools:
1) language background questionnaire
2) interviews and focus group with teachers
3) lessons observation
4) interviews with multilingual children

The study is expected to take up to 36 months from 1 October 2020.


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