Social Science blog

84 posts categorized "Social Sciences"

29 October 2015

Sources and Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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Registration open now!

Late News: We are pleased to announce that Professor Benjamin Bowling (Kings College
London) will also be speaking at the event.

Criminology and Criminal Justice are the focus of this year’s all day workshop on sources and methods in socio-legal research. Following last year's suggestions for themes of future events the British Library, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Socio-Legal Studies Association have teamed up with the British Society of Criminology. The workshop will take place at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Friday, 20 November 2015.

The event, aimed at PhD/MPhil researchers, early career academics and policy researchers, offers a valuable opportunity to benefit from insider views of several UK collections that support criminological and criminal justice research, but crucially, also offers the opportunity to hear an international group of distinguished researchers in law and criminology talk about particular sources and attendant methodological issues encountered in their research. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion throughout the day which finishes with a panel discussion.

From the British Library, Jon Sims, will provide a glimpse of content and services that offer potential to support contextual studies of criminal law, crime and criminal justice, offering examples that illustrate the scope of the Library’s collections including news media, sound recordings, industry information, colonial public records, private historical papers, literary and pictorial sources. Beyond the British Library the day offers insight on the qualitative, quantitative and theoretical methods and data sources used by or found in the collections of the impressive array of speakers who have volunteered their time.  

From the Manheim Centre for the Study of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the LSE, Paul Rock (with Tim Newburn and David Downes) discuss the “large and worrying gaps in formal documentation” encountered during their research since 2009 on the official history of criminal justice (1959 to 1997) in context of the accumulation of records, and procedures of file selection and retention. From the National Archives (Kew), Nigel Taylor will discuss the context of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation, the EU Right to be forgotten ruling, compliance and inter-institutional dialogue surrounding decisions about access to records of criminal justice. Representatives from other UK national collections are Sharon Bolton, Data Curation Manager at the UK Data Service, who will be talking about finding quantitative and qualitative crime and criminological data sources and also highlighting associated resources such as case studies based on the data and teaching sets, and Stuart Stone, from the Institute of Criminology (Cambridge), talking about the world renowned, and strongly interdisciplinary, Radzinowicz Library.

On the theme of qualitative methods and the interpretation of texts, Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex) will discuss sources used for research on public reactions to the death penalty in mid twentieth-century Britain. Focusing on letters sent to successive Home Secretaries, she will compare these articulations of qualitative views with what sources accessible at the British Library - the Mass Observation Capital Punishment Survey, contemporary newspaper articles and oral history interviews from the Millennium Memory Bank - did and didn’t reveal. Linda Mulcahy and Emma Rowden (LSE and University of Technology, Sydney) focus on Court Design Guides published by the UK government in the aftermath of the Beeching Report which concluded that the court system was in crisis. They discuss the use of a Foucauldian methodology and analysis that highlights relationships between data management and emerging themes, discourses on status, efficiency and danger, the privileging of some court users over others, and issues around designated space.

Visiting fellow at Queen Mary, Adrian Howe discusses standard positivist and post-structural methodologies deployed by feminist researchers in criminology and criminal justice. She will be looking at the role of statistical analysis, which allows for particular biases in the collection of data,  in determining the scale and in raising the policy profile of domestic violence, and on the discursive production of crime by non-feminists researchers. Also from the University of London David Nelken (Kings College) asks ‘Whom Can We Trust?’ in discussion of qualitative methods in comparative research, briefly addressing issues such as conflicting accounts of events in context of approaches he has called ‘Virtually there’, ‘Researching there’ and ‘Being there’ and ‘second-order comparison’.

Paul Dawson, Research Manager at the Evidence and Insight Unit of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), will discuss the use of police data, providing insight of the work of the unit through case studies, demonstrating data use and research within the Metropolitan Police Service, and offering advice about data access. Also in the context of policing and data access, Lisa Dickson from the Law School at the University of Kent will discuss her investigation of NHS disclosure to the police of confidential patient-identifiable information without patient consent through the Data Protection Act 1998. She will be talking about her use of Freedom of Information requests as a research method to secure the data, and about FOI responses as a distinctive and interesting source of research information.

On quantitative sources and methods, Nick Tilley (UCL) will be discussing the wide range of statistical sources available in criminology, what types of data are currently most commonly used, possibilities, pitfalls and practical problems for broadening the range of data sources, and other data sets that are often overlooked. Following on from this, Andromachi Tseloni (Loughborough University) offers an overview of common methods applied to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, asking what such analyses can and cannot tell about the issues examined. Continuing the focus on quantitative methods, but also the themes of policing data and domestic violence, Allan Brimicombe, Head of the Centre for Geo-Information Studies at UEL, will discuss the use of police recorded data to understand patterns of escalation to violence and homicide amongst repeat victims of domestic violence/abuse (DVA).

Booking information

This event is organised by the British Society of Criminology, Socio-Legal Studies Association, British Library and Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. The price of £90 (Students £65) includes lunch and refreshments. If you would like to take advantage of this great opportunity please visit on the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies events page for booking details, timings and access arrangements.

21 October 2015

Enduring Ideas 3: The Problem of Prejudice

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Book now!

The third lecture in our Enduring ideas series takes place on the 17th November. Following Matt Flinders on democracy and Ha-Joon Change on capitalism, our exploration of the key concepts and ideas that underpin our understanding of society continues with Dominic Abrams on prejudice. Recent and continuing reactions to the refugee crisis in Europe highlight the importance of our understanding of the problem of prejudice. Professor Abrams will address questions such as whether a tendency to judge and stereotype is an inherent part of human nature, an inevitable aspect of society or something which could be prevented through better education and focused social policies. His talk will also discuss whether our tendency to pre-judge others means that any attempts to aim for sustained societal harmony in our increasingly diverse communities are simply far too optimistic.

Dominic Abrams is Professor of Social Psychology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent. We’re delighted to be joined by Professor Dame Helen Wallace, a European Studies specialist, British Library Board member, and Foreign Secretary and International Vice-President of the British Academy.

The Enduring Ideas series takes place in collaboration with the Academy of Social sciences. It starts at 1830, in the Terrace Restaurant. Booking information is available via this link here Enduring Ideas. Look forward to seeing you there!

04 October 2015

Animals Inspired Events at the British Library

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Update: Book now!

As it is World Animal Day, I thought I'd take the opportunity to introduce two animal-related events that are taking place next month at the British Library as part of the Being Human festival. These two events were motivated by our current Animal Tales exhibition which shows how animals have come to play such an important role in literature and in human life and culture more broadly.

The Being Human festival begins after the exhibition itself closes, but these two events are still linked to some of the themes of the exhibition. The first, on 13 November is ‘From Animal Tales to Animal Tags’ which is a virtual, drop-in event which hopes to involve interested members of the public in curating our online collection of images which is held on Flickr through tagging images of domestic animals. We have 1 million out of copyright images as part of our Flickr collection which are held under a creative commons license. The more the public are involved in tagging and grouping these images, the more user-friendly the collection becomes to researchers and other interested individuals and groups. If you have a Flickr account, or are able to set one up, it should be easy to participate in this event.

You can take part using your own device at home (e.g. via a tablet, laptop or PC) or can take your device along to one of the participating public libraries within the BL’s BIPC network (more details to follow), or our St Pancras site, to bring a sense of the collective to the event through tagging animals in this collection alongside other members of the public.


Image taken from page 81 of '[Travels through the Southern Provinces of the Russian Empire in 1793 and 1794. Translated from the German [by F. W. Blagdon]. MS. notes.]'

Our second animal inspired event, ‘Humans and their non-humans’ is on the evening of the 19 November at the Terrace Restaurant at our St Pancras site. This event will explore something very close to the hearts of many of us – the relationship between humans and our pets. For this event, we are very lucky to have a fantastic panel of experts to talk about different aspects of the human-animal relationship through the research they have undertaken.

From the biological to the sociological, this event will address issues such as: our emotional engagement with pets, pets as family members, pets as enablers and their role in health and, wider sociological questions about the changing nature of the human-pet relationship. Our chair for the evening will be Professor Claire Molloy, Director of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University, who has written extensively about the representation of animals in film and other media.

Our speakers for the evening are Dr John Bradshaw, Professor Nickie Charles and Professor Daniel Mills, whose diverse expertise and interests will make this a informative and fun evening for all of us interested in the human-animal relationship. The event starts at 18.30 and will be followed by a pay bar until 21.00. It includes time for audience questions and is aimed at the public, so there is no need to come with any prior knowledge of the topic. This event is charged and can be booked via our What’s On pages. We hope to see you there!

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546

23 July 2015

PhD placements available!

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Are you:

-an ESRC-funded PhD student?

-interested in social science research and policy?

-interested in learning more about the British Library’s collections?

-interested in working alongside expert curators?

-keen to learn about public engagement with research?

Then we may have a funded, three month ESRC placement for you!

Working at the Library is an amazing way to find out about the scope of the collections we have here and to be exposed to unique and unusual research materials that cannot be found elsewhere. The British Library has hosted a number of ESRC placements in the past, including projects on diverse topics such as sports archives, ageing and the body, migration, health studies and the use of the web in social science research. Previous placements have produced a range of useful outputs such as topical bibliographies, reports, webpages and events for the public and academic audiences.

There are 5 placements currently open to ESRC-funded PhD students. They are each funded for a three month period. These are outlined below. For more information and how to apply, please see full details on the RCUK website. The deadline for applications is 16:00 BST 28 August 2015.

We are also offering up to three placements for MRC or NERC-funded students and one placement for AHRC-funded students. For more details see the RCUK website.


Above: The British Library, aerial view. Public Domain image.

Outline of projects for ESRC-funded placements

Mapping the 20th Century

Contribute to a major exhibition launching in November 2016 that will explore key aspects of national and international government policy, boundaries and identities through the 20th Century. You will focus on developing part of the exhibition narrative that discusses the role of maps in geopolitical contexts e.g. boundary mapping used to establish new national borders; the role of mapping in communicating the work and supporting the existence of supranational bodies such as the UN, EEC etc. (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

Social Science Now!

Develop the concept for a public event that makes social science research and policy accessible, exciting and relevant. The intern will work with an experienced team to research, plan and deliver an event as part of the BL’s public programme. You will work closely with high-profile speakers to develop format and content, liaise with BL teams to engage in targeted promotion and post-event evaluation and other outputs (e.g. podcasts, videos). Time-permitting, you will also undertake research into a specific aspect of use of policy information in our collections relating to social science (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

UK General Election 2015 – the Web Legacy

The British Library is part of a consortium that has formed a collection of 7500 archived websites relating to the 2015 UK General Election. This is a unique resource for political and social research. You will be involved in improving discoverability and presentation of the collection using cutting edge web archiving tools; negotiating permissions from rights holders to make archived sites openly available worldwide as well as quality checking of gathered sites. You will have the opportunity to carry out research using the collection (e.g. analysing the role of the Internet in political communication) and to disseminate your findings through BL blogs and other routes (One placement, open to ESRC students).

American Foreign Policy - a User’s Guide to the BL

The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library houses one of the world’s foremost collections of American books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers and sound recordings. You will develop a resource that will enable researchers to get the most out of the collections related to American foreign policy. The resource could take the form of bibliographies, case studies, learning resources or a web exhibition. You will also be involved in engagement and publicity work to promote use of this resource. (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

Asia, Africa and International Development

International partnerships are fundamental to the British Library’s activities, including those in Asia and Africa. As well as hosting vast collections from these areas ourselves, it is our aspiration to support cultural institutions across Asia and Africa whose own collections are at risk from war or civil emergency. More broadly, the Library’s international projects and partnerships seek to generate social and economic impact. This internship would involve drawing on the intern’s knowledge and research of current best practise in international development to produce a report to the BL with recommendations about how it could more actively and more usefully engage in this area. (One placement, open to ESRC students).

01 July 2015

Call for Papers

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The importance of early years, childhood and adolescence: Evidence from longitudinal studies

Monday 30 November 2015

British Library Conference Centre

We are delighted to invite proposals from researchers using longitudinal data to explore the broad theme of: The importance of early years, childhood and adolescence. Submissions will be considered for an oral presentation or poster. Analyses involving cross-study comparisons are particularly encouraged.

Important Dates

Deadline for receipt of submissions: 27 July 2015
Notification of acceptance: Early Sept 2015
Registration Opens: Mid Sept 2015

Deadline for final camera-ready copy: 9 OCTOBER    
CLOSER CONFERENCE: 30 November 2015

Selected submissions may be considered for publication in a "Conference Edition" of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies.

A prize for best Student Poster, as judged by the Conference Programme Committee, will be awarded during the conference.


The UK’s longitudinal studies are leading sources of evidence on how our early circumstances and experiences affect our paths through life and our outcomes in adulthood. CLOSER is bringing together researchers from across disciplines to showcase outstanding longitudinal research in the importance of early years, childhood and adolescence. It is an opportunity to share ideas and innovations with longitudinal researchers from across disciplines and sectors, both from the UK and abroad. It will also showcase the latest resources for research, including a new cutting-edge metadata search platform.



Image: copyright CLOSER, reproduced with permission

Promoting excellence in cohort and longitudinal research

CLOSER (Cohort and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources) aims to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s cohort and longitudinal studies. Bringing together nine leading studies, the British Library and the UK Data Service, CLOSER works to stimulate interdisciplinary research, develop shared resources, provide training, and share expertise.


CLOSER is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council.

05 June 2015


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I was a women’s libber
I couldn’t - tell me, should it be wouldn’t - tread in the master’s step
and didn’t mind if I trod on his feet
when I came to Spare Rib
I found myself               right behind Carnaby street
and started to make things happen


we made space

we made space                                                     we made space

that wasn’t full of someone elses junk 
tried out leading different lives
of language and expression that we made and made our own
….?Yes. No templates. We learnt to make sense
we got and gave strength like the turning tide subverted debate
redefined ourselves made our own beds
would do what it takes and do it in public
reclaim the night re-arrange furniture

at Spare Rib bops I turned up the music
knowing I was in among a movement
of women saying no                and women saying yes
on their own terms in a corset or a dress
how were we to second guess in WEREN’T BORN A MAN
Dana had chosen the burlesque
(if you look at issue 24 from the cover to its contents
you can follow the contortions that we went through)

Cartoon by Pat Kahn

I am 64              musing on debt
to those who’ve gone before
and to crowds I’ve never met —they chipped in and bought
(not then an easy thing to do) and did what they could
to make Spare Rib what it was, keep us going, carry on—
to all these and more I'm pleased to say we’ve been repaid       in spades.

I feel my pulse quickening, hear unlocking doors, find a new space to breathe
and reflect       that’s free and accessible
where, packaged respectfully and according to rules
4000 + individuals’ copyrights are protected
just as they spoke about what they felt mattered
living in hope that they’d change the world
so it would listen               to daughters.

                              all 239 issues?
poor girl she always loved larking
they’ve digitised the whole run
they have to clear their clutter
digital won't last. Why are
you so depressing  we're
on a different planet now she's getting the very best of British care
to make the most of its resources for research and educational purposes
the British Library simply has to share—
so the old girl’s alive and kicking and now everybody’s tweeting
she’s even started waving out there in the mainstream
where there’s no-one who can stop her
or the thousands like her from igniting
and combusting          some have only just discovered—
a radical unruly       very well and truly            CATHARTIC ENERGY!

                                                                                Rose Ades


Rose Ades worked at Spare Rib 1972-77. She became a Solicitor, joined the 10-Speed Trots, lobbied for cycling and as Head of the Cycling Centre of Excellence at Transport for London reconfigured cycling and helped to make it popular.

Explore Spare Rib

28 May 2015

Spare Rib Magazine enters the digital age

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From today, every edition of Spare Rib magazine will be available to be viewed by anyone online for free. This project began back in June 2013 when, partly inspired by the positive response to the British Library’s Women’s Liberation Movement oral history project, I started to think about whether it would be possible to digitise and make freely available online a full run of Spare Rib magazines. I knew that the magazine played an important part in many women’s lives in the 1970s and 1980s – my mother was a sometime Spare Rib reader and had given me a copy of Spare Rib’s book called Girls Are Powerful when I was about 10 years old. I loved that book and I held onto the idea that women were equal to men as I grew from a young girl into a woman.

So it was with great curiosity that I called the British Library’s collection of Spare Rib magazines up from storage – 239 issues arrived at my desk on a single trolley. I started looking through them – and I was captivated. Few titles sum up an era and a movement like Spare Rib. With its commitment to challenging the status quo, Spare Rib battled oppression and gave a voice to the struggles of diverse groups of women over the 21 years it was in print (1972-1993). Bold in design, content and tone, the magazine set out from the outset to challenge, debate and discuss everything from the politics of housework to the situation for women in El Salvador to the rights of lesbian mothers.

The first issue of Spare Rib from July 1972
Front cover Issue 1 July 1972 - Women Smiling by Angela Phillips. Usage terms: © Angela Phillips Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence

Spare-rib-manifesto (resized)
Spare Rib pre-launch manifesto - The founders of Spare Rib set out to set the record straight on Women’s Liberation, which had been trivialised and ridiculed by the mainstream press. They sought to reach out to all women and in their manifesto they explain what is wrong with women’s magazines of the day and how their alternative would offer realistic solutions to the problems experienced by women. Usage terms: Facsimile of Spare Rib manifesto © Marsha Rowe Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence

Until now, the full run of magazines has only been available for consultation in the British Library Reading Rooms and a few other libraries and archives. The British Library’s digitised Spare Rib resources change this and make the magazine accessible to everyone.

We have developed a curated introductory site on the British Library’s website with a selection of more than 300 stories, cartoons and images from the magazine and 20 introductory articles written by former Spare Rib contributors and British Library curators, designed as a way in to the content for anyone experiencing the magazine for the first time.

The British Library Spare Rib site will link through to the Jisc Journals Archive site, where the full run of 239 issues of Spare Rib magazine is hosted. This Spare Rib resource is free to access, and is fully searchable, meaning that researchers, historians, students and anyone interested in feminism or activism can search across all editions for the first time, transforming the way in which the magazines can be accessed, discovered and re-used.

Funny, irreverent, intelligent and passionate, Spare Rib was a product of its time which is also somehow timeless. It should come with a word of warning, however, it’s difficult to tear yourself away.

Spare_Rib-39 (resized)Photograph of Polly with former Spare Rib Collective members and project advisors. From left to right, Ruthie Petrie, Rose Ades, Marsha Rowe, British Library curator Polly Russell, Sue O’ Sullivan and project volunteer Louise Kimpton-Nye.

Polly Russell
Social Science Curator

Explore Spare Rib

23 March 2015

Spring/Summer Events

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Over the last few months members of the team, along with colleagues from across the library and external partners, have been working to organise numerous public events.  This post gives details of some of these events.

On Wednesday of this week (25th March), we will be holding the next event in our Talk Science Series.  On this occassion, journalist and Antarctic veteran Alok Jha (ITV) will chair a discussion with Director of the British Antarctic Survey Professor Jane Francis, UCL anaesthetist and space medicine expert Dr Kevin Fong and University of Cambridge historian Dr Michael Bravoon the subject of 'Scientists in extreme environments'. They will consider numerous questions including:

  • Why do scientists work in extreme environments, and is it worth the financial and human cost?
  • Why do Scientists travel to the tops of mountains, the polar regions and even outer space in order to conduct experiments, make observations and set up instruments and what have we learned from doing science in extreme environments?
  • Is what we gain worth the high financial, and sometimes human, cost?
  • Does exploring these places also make science a vehicle through which geopolitics is played out and do we need to explore for the sake of exploration?

Extreme Environmentssmall
For further inforamtion on the event and to book a ticket please visit the library's What's On page

On the 11 May, we will be holding Family History/Public History? in association with the Raphael Samuel History Centre, London.  This evening event will consider how family history spans both private stories and public history. It challenges our ideas of what we mean by ‘proper’ history and experiments with the limits of fiction and non-fiction.

Richard Benson and Alison Light read from their recent work and discuss writing their family histories of the working classes.

Richard Benson’s The Farm (2005), an account of his family during the forced sale of their farm, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The Valley (2014), which sets his family stories against the history of the mining industry, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week; it was praised for combining ‘the epic sweep of Gone with the Wind with the microscopic intensity of Tolstoy’.

Alison Light is author of the much-acclaimed Mrs Woolf and the Servants (2007). Common People: the History of an English Family (2014) explores her own family history across two centuries. Shortlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize, one reviewer deemed it ‘part memoir, part thrilling social history of the England of the Industrial Revolution, but above all a work of quiet poetry’.

Family History - Sepia family portraitsmall

The Private History/Public History event is free, but booking is essential.

We will be holding a one day conference, in association with Urban Photo Fest and Goldsmiths, University of London, on the the 29th May on 'Visual Urbanism: Locating Place in Time'.  Throughout the day speakers and delegates will examine interdisciplinary approaches to investigating urban space and consider topics such as how does the temporal dimension influence practices of urban place-making; what happens to our perception of urban space when we look at it both forwards and backwards in time; and how can time-based media be used to challenge linear notions of time?

A keynote talk will be given by Professor Michael Keith (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford). The event will include a short film festival showcasing work by artists and researchers exploring urban space through moving images and sound.

Visual Urbanism 2015small
Refreshments, a sandwich lunch and wine reception are included in the ticket price.  Tickets can be booked here.

We are delighted that Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, will deliver the fifth Annual British Sociological Association/British Library Equality Lecture on the evening of the 22nd June.

Drawing on her recently published book 'On Liberty' and her work in high-profile campaigns, from privacy laws to anti-terror legislation, Shami explores how our world has changed since 9/11. Her talk considers whether governments have decided that the rule of law and human rights are often ‘too costly’, and look at the unprecedented pressures those rights are under today. She outlines why our fundamental rights and freedoms are indispensable, even paramount in upholding democracy and democratic Institutions.

The event will be chaired by Professor Eileen Green, Chair of the British Sociological Association and Professor Emerita in Sociology at Teesside University.

Shami Chakrabartismall
Shami Chakrabarti. Image used courtesy of Liberty.

Tickets are £10.00 full price, with concessions available and can be booked here.

Now are you are you sat down or sitting down while reading this? Have you got or do you have a preference for one form over the other?   If you do, why not join us on the 29th June for English Grammar Day 2015

Grammar Daysmall
English has a number of ways of expressing the same concept and with approximately 400 million mother-tongue speakers and an estimated 1400 million non-native speakers it has become a diverse, flexible language that continues to adapt, evolve – and provoke strong reactions. Despite – perhaps because of – this extraordinary diversity debates about English usage have been commonplace since at least the 18th century. Jonathan Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712) warned against the dangers of unregulated language, linking jargon and slang with declining morals and poor social behaviour.

In the 20th and 21st century radio phone-ins, newspaper letters' pages and online discussion forums bear witness to continued enthusiasm for dissecting the state of the nation’s linguistic health – more often than not with a particular focus on notions of ‘grammatical correctness’.

Recent developments in the National Curriculum have placed the teaching of grammar in schools once more at centre stage and divided opinion among politicians, teachers, linguists, and journalists, as well as the wider public. How have teachers implemented changes to their teaching and learning programmes to adapt to the new syllabuses and assessment criteria? What resources are available for students, teachers and the general public to learn more about English grammar and vocabulary?

What do teachers, professionals, academics and the general public feel is the cultural and educational significance of knowledge about the language? Join us for a day of talks, and feel free to ask our panel of experts to explore any aspect of English grammar from ain’t to innit. 

To book a place please see our 'What's On' page

In addition to the above events we also have London and the Nation and A Magna Carta for Women?  taking palce in July.

Gosh! There is a lot going on.  We hope you will join us.