Voice 21 Oracy Project

Last year, we were successful in our application to join a very exciting new whole school project called ‘Voice 21’ which aims to develop our pupils’ oracy skills. Voice 21 is a national oracy education charity that aims to transform the learning and life chances of young people through talk so that all children can use their voice for success, not just in school, but in their everyday lives.

What is oracy and why is it important?

We believe that oracy is a powerful tool for learning; by teaching pupils to become more effective speakers and listeners we empower them to better understand themselves, each other and the world around them. It is also a route to social mobility, empowering all pupils to find their voice to succeed in school and life. Through a high quality oracy education students learn through talk and to talk. This is when they develop and deepen their subject knowledge and understanding through talk in the classroom, which has been planned, designed, modelled, scaffolded and structured to enable them to learn the skills needed to talk effectively.

What are our aims?

At North Ealing, we want to raise the expectations for oracy, and speaking and listening, within classrooms and also across the curriculum. We are aiming to build an oracy culture throughout the school, by giving children opportunities to express themselves in a range of different contexts to support them in becoming model citizens of the future

What does the project involve?

Two members of staff – Mr Gami and Mr Rutherford – were our acting ‘Oracy Champions’ and they attended training throughout last year. Mr Gami will continue with this training as our official Oracy Lead this year. Over the last year, staff have attended many training sessions, delivered by the Champions, in order for talk strategies to be implemented across the school, and this will continue to be embedded. This year, Mr Gami is also engaged with an exciting research-based project, alongside several other Ealing schools, seeking to further teaching practices that will encourage pupils to talk, challenge and build upon each other’s thinking to drive on learning in the classroom, and beyond.

Some of the work which has been completed in classes so far includes:

All classes have agreed on their ‘Discussion Guidelines‘ which sets out how everyone in the class (including the adults) will work together to ensure that everyone has a voice and that their contributions are valued.

We have introduced the ‘Oracy Frameworks’ so that children in each key stage know what oracy skills they are working towards.

Children are encouraged to use ‘Talk Tactics’ to support them in developing their oracy skills across the curriculum. This is further supported by the use of sentence stems and key vocabulary in lessons.

We encourage the children to experiment with different forms of talk groupings, in order to facilitate various types of spoken activity. When experimenting within groupings, the importance of maintaining the norms of the discussions guidelines are paramount:

In addition to ensuring that Voice 21 is part of everyday lessons, Mrs Flowers runs Oracy assemblies every week, currently with Year 5 pupils.

What can parents and carers do to support children to develop their oracy skills at home?

Talk about their day…and yours!

The tried and tested ‘What did you do today?’ often yields a disappointing ‘I can’t remember.’ So, find different ways to talk about what your child has been up to. Eating your evening meal as a family is a great way to encourage conversation – definitely no screens on! Older children are often more chatty in the car, where they feel less like they are being interrogated. If you are stuck for ideas, have a look at the North Ealing newsletter which always includes a Discussion Question.

Read aloud to your child

Reading aloud, particularly with texts that are well beyond the age that they can read for themselves, combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within one activity. This helps children to build their vocabulary, learn to express their thoughts and understand the structure of language.

Ask questions

Ask your child questions about what they say and encourage them to ask you questions too! Having regular conversations with your child in your home language is also very valuable in terms of developing your child’s oracy skills so please do not worry if your first language is not English.

Phone a friend

Persuade your child to move away from simply WhatsApping friends or relatives and develop their speaking skills by making an actual phone call. Encourage them to speak to different family members on the phone or on a video call and, again, this can be done in your home language. It’s all about building confidence as a speaker.