Duncan PartridgeDirector of Education

Learning from current leaders in oracy: Our Summer conference round-up

Wednesday 28 Jun 2017

Find out more about what we’ve learnt from schools and teaching professionals over the latest conference season

Spending time in the company of teachers and educationalists who are passionate about what they do and keen to share and learn is both energising and stimulating. Here at the ESU, we seek out opportunities to keep up to speed with the latest industry changes, as well as to share our perspectives on oracy and education. I was lucky enough to attend three such education-focussed events in the space of a week. Here, I’d like to share with you the highlights that I took away from my time ‘on the road’.

All three events I attended fitted the pattern described above, being full of enthusiastic and knowledgeable practitioners creating a buzz of excitement and engagement. Moreover, the experience was rewarding from the point of view of the ESU’s mission to support the development of young people who are ‘confident communicators, critical thinkers, inspired citizens’, as it confirmed that oracy is sitting firmly at the top end of the educational agenda at the moment.

Northern Rocks, 17th June

My first stop was Northern Rocks in Leeds, a gathering of teaching professionals with the principle that education exists to make the world a better place and that the future lies in the hands of our young people.

It was a lovely event, and one which really feels like it is ‘owned’ by the attendees. A blisteringly hot day added to the atmosphere, as teachers bathed in the sunshine as well as educational dialogue. My top two highlights for the day were; James Mannion’s thought provoking session (presentation here), which suggested that oracy is more important than literacy and numeracy combined, and the panel of young people who spoke to the whole conference about their views of their own educational experience and what they would like to gain from their time in school (you can see their inspiring speeches here ).

The Talking Schools Conference, 20th June

Next, on to Bradford for a smaller but no less enjoyable event, The Talking Schools Conference. Here we heard keynotes from Alan Howe and Beccy Earnshaw on the impact a focus on oracy can have on thinking skills, well-being and confidence, as well as being a key lever for improving social mobility.

A number of schools also presented on their own oracy projects and I was particularly taken by the excellent work being done by Green Lane Primary School to deepen children’s thinking through questioning.

Festival of Education, 22nd and 23rd June

The last stop on our conference tour was the remarkable Festival of Education at Wellington College. This event really does feel like a festival in the music-festival sense, plenty of bonhomie, bubbly enthusiasm and wonderful ‘happenings’ around the site. The event exists to bring together the very best of education’s most forward thinking advocates, practitioners of change, policy makers and educators in one of the leading forums for thought leadership, CPD and debate.

I was privileged to be able to give a talk about how we at the ESU believe that debating should play a role in the delivery of the curriculum in primary schools. It was wonderful to be able to share the work of the ESU with teachers from around the country with such an enthusiastic audience – I hope to see you all again next year.

If you’d like to take a look at my slides from the event, please click here.

Did you attend any of the same conferences? Or discover any new gems? Let us know which speaker or session you enjoyed the most and tweet us @theesu

Photo credit: Festival of Education