Research Fellow in Language Policy
Leanne works on the AHRC Modern Languages Leadership Fellowship Language Policy Project ‘Foreign, indigenous and community languages in the devolved regions of the UK: policy and practice for growth’, led by Janice Carruthers. Her research focuses on education policy in relation to language learning and she is particularly interested in language learner aspirations and expectations with respect to curriculum and assessment at post-primary level. Her recent paper ‘Socio-Economic Factors, School Type and the Uptake of Languages. Northern Ireland in the Wider UK Context’, co-authored with Janice Carruthers, shows serious inequalities in the uptake of languages qualifications beyond the compulsory phase. She is also Co-Editor of the online policy journal ‘Languages, Society & Policy’ and has co-edited a recent special collection, entitled: ‘Language inequality in education, law and citizenship’.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on analysis of data from a cross-sectional survey of young people at post-primary level (n=1278), to better understand their views and experiences of language learning in NI. This survey provides much needed data in relation to modern languages education policy, provision and practice in the devolved regions, from the perspectives of young people themselves. Our analysis builds on the findings of our previous research which shows system-level inequalities in language learning experiences and enables us to see how these affect young people, individually and collectively.
We are preparing several papers to share the findings of this important study: perhaps the most significant output will be an analysis of the relative importance of the factors which influence whether or not young people continue to study a modern language beyond the compulsory phase.
How does it fit with your previous research?
I’ve been interested in children and young people’s experiences of languages education since working as a French teacher at post-primary level and completing my MTeach degree. I have been involved in research in this area since 2016 when I worked on a study investigating ‘The Transition from Primary Languages Programmes to Post-Primary Languages Provision.’
My PhD research also focused on children’s experiences of important education policy decisions: ‘Children’s education rights at the transition to secondary education: School choice in Northern Ireland.’
In carrying out this research, our main objective was to better understand the policy environment and we want to use these findings to positively influence language education policies. In addition to data relating to ‘modern’ languages, our survey also provides data on the experiences of indigenous and community language learners and speakers in post-primary schools, and the next stage of this research will focus on findings relating to those young people. We are also developing plans to continue our research in this area in the future.