Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Dr Jean Conteh

Senior Lecturer in Primary Education

I have worked in multilingual contexts for my whole career, first as a primary teacher and teacher educator in different countries and then as an academic at the University of York and Leeds University, where I took up a senior lectureship in 2007. All this experience contimnues to fuel my interest in the roles of language and culture in the processes of learning, particularly in multilingual settings. I worked as a teacher educator on PGCE Primary, BA QTS and MA courses for over 20 years in West Yorkshire, and through this gained considerable experience in the growing field of English as an additional language (EAL). This has led to the new programme I have developed, which started in September 2013, the MA in EAL and Education, designed for teachers and other professionals working in multilingual contexts (for further details please see the School of Education's programme catalogue).

Working in multilingual contexts in Britain has strengthened my awareness of the ways in which socio-political issues affect children's chances for success, at all levels of their education and thus is social justice.This was developed by the research I carried out with successful bilingual learners at KS2 in Bradford leading to my PhD, which I completed, part-time, in 2001. Since then, I have published many books, chapters and articles about these issues, and am interested in supervising doctoral students researching these issues.

Since 2003, I have worked with a group of qualified primary teachers who run bilingual complementary classes where they support children's bilingual learning in order to enhance their achievments in mainstream school. in 2011, we were delighted  to win a large grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to develop our work with the children and their families, and this is the focus of my current research. 

I am a longstanding member of NALDIC (National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum), and have been involved in several projects with them, relating to researching EAL in teacher education.

I am a member of the BAAL Linguistic Ethnography Special Interest Group and have presented papers at seminars and conferences.

I very much enjoy keeping my links with Africa alive, and have worked with Macmillan Education publishers to develop materials for teachers and pupils in African primary classrooms, such as the Reading Worlds series, for which I am the series editor.

Research Interests

My abiding interest in issues of equity and social justice in multilingual classrooms has led me to pursue linguistic ethnographic research methodologies to investigate and understand processes of teaching and learning from the points of view of the participants, and the ways these both mediate and are mediated by national and global imperatives.

I am very interested in understanding children's learning experiences in both complementary and mainstream contexts, and also the professional experiences, roles and identities of bilingual primary teachers.

I welcome the opportunity to work with Master's and doctoral students who wish to research in these areas.


I am a member of the Language Education research group. My teaching covers several areas in the School; I am module leader for the English component of the PGCE Primary Programme. I teach on the new BA (Hons) in English, Language and Education and also on the Master's Research Methods modules. The new course I have developed, MA in EAL and Education, began in September 2013. I supervise both PhD and Master's students, and am course leader for the MA in Education.

PhD Supervision

I supervise a lively and collaborative group of PhD students, all working within the ethnographic paradigm. Their areas of interests are as follows:

  • Growing up multilingually in monolingual contexts in West Yorkshire
  • Chinese-Tibetan bilingualism in the Tibetan areas of China
  • Language diversity and inclusion in early years education in Vietnam
  • Interaction in fixed and mixed ability groups in a primary classroom in Leeds
  • EAL learners in an academy
  • Muslim youth identity and experience in Sheffield
  • Interaction in college English classrooms in Oman

If you are interested in joining us, please get in touch. These are my main areas of expertise:

  • Language education in complementary and mainstream classrooms
  • English as an additional language (EAL)
  • Bilingualism in education
  • Diversity, inclusion and social justice in education

Key Publications


  • Conteh J, Teaching bilingual and EAL learners in primary schools, Transforming Primary QTS (London: Sage, 2012), 1-144

  • Multilingual Learning Stories in Britain, ed. by Conteh J, Martin P and Robertson LH (Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books, 2007)

Journal Articles

  • Conteh J, ‘Families, pupils and teachers learning together in a multilingual British city’, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33.1 (2012), 101-116
    DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2011.638077

  • Conteh J, ‘Poetry and childhood’, Cambridge Journal of Education, 41.2 (2011), 230-231


  • Conteh J, Brock A, ‘Children’s rights, identity and learning: the case for bilingualism’, in Children's Rights in Practice, ed. by Jones P and Walker G (Sage Publications Ltd, 2011), 124-139

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