Welcome to the Ouse Valley branch
The Ouse Valley Branch primarily serves Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, but also includes members and schools from Northamptonshire and the rest of Buckinghamshire. It is a large and very active branch providing a continuous platform of opportunities for pupils of every age from year 4 to year 13 to participate in public speaking, debating and Shakespearean activities and competitions.
In 2011 the branch pioneered the use of structured programmes of speaking and listening activities for children in primary schools to help build self-confidence, and improve their command and use of the English Language and their levels of oracy. A simplified format for a public speaking competition was included to give pupils the opportunity to practice their new-found skills in the classroom, and subsequently to nominate representative teams for annual inter-school competitions. The number of schools involved has grown considerably over the years, and the programme is extremely popular. In conjunction with the University of Bedfordshire, the branch undertook a controlled action-research project which established that such activities significantly improve school performance, especially for disadvantaged pupils and those whose first language is not English.
More recently a Junior Debate Academy was formed to enable pupils in years 5 and 6 to extend their skills to formal debating, with annual schools’ debates being hosted by the local university – the branch’s main sponsor. In the secondary sector we organise the local heats of the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition, hold an annual sixth form debate evening, and participate in the national schools’ programme Performing Shakespeare.
Every year we also arrange a stimulating programme of luncheon talks for our members on a wide variety of interesting topics, as a way of bringing together the membership to update them on our important educational activities and seek their support in whatever way they are able to give. We are an open and friendly branch, and welcome both old and new members and their guests to our events. Full details of the current programme can be found in the entries which follow.
Ellen Punter, Acting Branch Chairman