Our educational approach
We work with teachers and education practitioners to improve oracy skills and cross-cultural understanding so that all young people, regardless of their background, can make their voices heard.
Our resources, programmes and competitions all teach two things. First, they teach students how to talk – how to structure a speech, summarise information, listen critically and to consider and address different audiences. Second, they help students to learn through talk. By discussing current affairs and topical issues, in any class or subject, students not only acquire deeper subject knowledge but a greater awareness of the world around them. Their horizons broaden and they improve their ability to consider and evaluate diverse opinions and points of view.
As students get used to speaking in class and learning to treat other people’s opinions with respect, so their social skills improve, along with their self-confidence, self-awareness and empathy.
Our approach chimes with the growing amount of research pointing to the importance of education in instilling interpersonal skills and character traits such as resilience, drive, tenacity and self-awareness, as well as academic outcomes and processes like metacognition. For example, research by the Sutton Trust shows that 97% of teachers, 94% of employers and 88% of young people believe that life skills such as confidence, motivation, resilience and communication are as or more important than academic qualifications.
Find out more about our work and impact via our latest Impact Report.
Why Oracy Matters
Our Why Oracy Matters report is the ESU’s latest contribution to the wider evidence base around oracy. Commissioned by the ESU and authored by Dr Jonathan Doherty, this report synthesises the evidence base and case for oracy across a range of disciplines. It is also packed with tangible take-aways, hints, tips and ideas for teachers to embed oracy into their everyday practice. We hope that this report is an excellent one-stop-shop for research and educators, helping them to make evidence-informed decisions about the oracy education happening in their settings.
The case for oracy is strong. A good oracy education has positive impact across educational attainment, school readiness, social mobility and into employment prospects. This report not only highlights the latest research in the field, but brings together some of the current models of oracy education, including the ESU’s Four Key Skillsets, to demonstrate what is already working. By supporting teachers to be reflective in their own practice, the report also supports professional development and confidence for teaching staff – something we know is vitally needed.
Download the report to find out more. The ESU is also able to provide further support and guidance for schools looking to develop their oracy practice via our programmes.
97% of employers feel life skills such as communication are more important than academic qualifications
Life Lessons, The Sutton Trust, 2017
four key skill sets
All our teaching, resources and competitions are underpinned by four key verbal communication skill sets: reasoning and evidence; listening and response; expression and delivery and organisation and prioritisation. Targeted activities allow students to practice each skill, providing a clear and consistent framework for learning and assessment. This both enables teachers to track and measure progress and improves students’ attainment in other areas of the curriculum, as outlined below.
Oracy skills developments across the curriculum
Cognitive skills such as concentration, memory, goal-setting and self-talk. These skills underpin students’ learning in all aspects of their lives, both in and out of school
Metacognitive skills, which help students evaluate ideas and to set goals and targets. Our peer-to-peer and self-assessment feedback culture also encourages students to self-evaluate and improve
Research skills, useful in all areas of academic and written work
Knowledge acquisition, deepening students’ understanding of the world and motivating them to retain and apply this information
Emotional and social skills, fostered through teamwork and turn-taking
Active listening, helping with summarising and paraphrasing as well as comprehension
Vocabulary acquisition, improving both comprehension and self-expression, written and oral
Student participation. All students, including SEND students feel more confident in making contributions in class, and are less cowed by louder classmates
Structural skills, which help students write coherent essays and arguments and enable them to engage critically with the world outside the classroom
Confidence, helping quieter students to speak up more
Extension, helping more confident students to make higher quality or more meaningful contributions
A growth mindset. Students believe speaking in public is a skill anyone can learn, rather than an innate talent
Thanks to this skills-led approach, our resources can be applied across many different areas of the curriculum, at Key Stages 2 to 5, in subjects from maths and science to history, ICT and citizenship. Notably, our programmes can also be used to provide Ofsted with clear evidence of spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education.
Assessment and progress
Many of the conventional methods of assessment in schools rely on evaluating students’ written work. However, our skills framework allows the four key skill sets to be isolated and evaluated, providing teachers (and students in self or peer-to-peer assessment) with a straightforward way of assessing dialogue and charting progress, and giving students clear, motivating metrics against which they can improve.
Our programmes are delivered through a network of expert Oracy Leaders and Coaches, all of whom are trained by the ESU and are either experienced teachers, debaters or public speakers themselves. The ESU is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. All delivery staff are trained in child protection and have passed criminal record and Disclosure and Barring Service checks.
Help give more young people the speaking and listening skills and cross-cultural understanding they need to thrive