Towards multilingual pedagogies for social justice in the primary school

Insights from classrooms in England


  • Thomas Quehl Goldsmiths, University of London


multilingual pedagogies, superdiverse primary school, social justice, plurilingual speakers


Multilingual pedagogies are a growing, yet often conceptually and politically contested area in mainstream educational settings. The article draws on data from a broader ethnographic study that focused on teacher agency in multilingual pedagogies in five superdiverse primary school classrooms in London and the East of England, where the children in each class spoke approximately ten languages besides English. The study used fieldnotes, teacher interviews, participatory activities with children and photographs of schoolscapes to analyse dominant features of the classroom: a monolingual norm, educators’ tendency to restrict children’s multilingualism to EAL-learning aspects and an only symbolic acknowledgement of their linguistic repertoires. Here, I argue that three intertwined dimensions of social justice emerge from this status quo as requirements for and as elements of multilingual pedagogies in superdiverse mainstream schools: the participation and recognition of plurilingual speakers, a normalization of multilingualism in the institution school and a deconstruction of languages as national languages. It is suggested that these dimensions are relevant for critical reflections and developments at the classroom level. However, it is only possible to leverage their analytical as well as practical potential, if they are conceptualized within wider examinations of hierarchies, discourses and institutional practices within contemporary societies that are characterized by phenomena of transnational migration and racism. The article concludes by drawing on the frameworks of migration pedagogy and the raciolinguistic perspective for such contextualisation.

Special Issue: Language Education for Social Justice


2022-09-01 — Updated on 2022-10-05


How to Cite

Quehl, T. (2022). Towards multilingual pedagogies for social justice in the primary school: Insights from classrooms in England. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 16(2), 77–97. (Original work published September 1, 2022)