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Home > News and views > Bedfordshire’s pioneering primary public speaking competition

Bedfordshire’s pioneering primary public speaking competition

2018 was the eighth successive year of public speaking competitions devised and organised by the ESU Ouse Valley Branch for primary school pupils in Bedfordshire. Representative teams of years 4 and 5 children from 20 schools competed over two days in the Erskine May Hall of Bedford School.

The competitions are organised at no cost to schools on the basis that choosing the team of three represents only the end-point of a series of speaking and listening activities involving all pupils in the class or classes – not just those selected for the inter-schools’ competition.  Published research conducted in Bedfordshire has demonstrated that this approach results in marked improvements in self-confidence, and in the command and use of the English language, with measurable gains in pupils’ achievement levels and Sats scores.

Most teachers draw activities from the teachers’ resource book Speak. Listen and Learn* written in association with the English-Speaking Union, and trialled and revised by teachers across the UK over a two-year period.  The book contains a range of class and group speaking and listening activities suitable for this age, including the format of the primary public speaking competition and how best to prepare a class or school team. Experience has shown that the materials can easily be integrated into topics undertaken as part of the national curriculum, negating the need to set aside extra teaching time. Over seven thousand primary school children in Bedfordshire have already benefited from involvement in the programme since it began in 2011, with clear improvements recorded in levels of both oracy and literacy.

Further information about competitions and the ESU Bedfordshire branch support and resources available to schools can be obtained from

* ‘SPEAK, LISTEN AND LEARN – Teaching resources for ages 7-13’ by Tony Wood in association with the English-Speaking Union.  Published Routledge 2015, ISBN 978-1-138-8405

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