As the ESU’s Oracy Culture Award opens for a new round of applicants we speak to one of last year’s winners, Llanedeyrn Primary School, about how oracy underpins learning in their school and what the award means to them
‘We were thrilled to get the award,’ says Bev Knuckey, Deputy Head of Llanedeyrn. ‘It’s an acknowledgement of the value of the work we’ve been doing and will help us to share our practice with other schools.’
This work began when teachers at the school first noticed how differently their Welsh and English language classes were taught. ‘In Welsh we drilled students but in English we assumed that our pupils should be able to use different structures with ease.’ They soon came to realise that low levels of oracy were having an impact on the children’s achievement as they moved through the school. ‘In an area of high social deprivation this could not continue,’ said Bev. ‘We began to look at ourselves: what was our role and what did we believe about the place of oracy in our school? We discovered the ESU and oracy charity Voice 21, attended the Great Oracy exhibition and heard about how oracy could change lives. Our path was set! ‘
Then followed a wealth of oracy activity. From whole school oracy assemblies, where students are encouraged to talk to each other and sit wherever they like, to weekly, themed oracy lessons and a re-branded world oracy book day, the thread of oracy is woven throughout the school’s curriculum.
The school first worked with the ESU through our Discover Debating programme — an innovative, two-term debating course fully supported by lesson plans, mentors and CPD. ‘It linked in perfectly with what we were doing in school and meant that our teachers received training.’
This led them to enter a team in their first ever debating competition. ‘It was thrilling to see our students using their voices within the Great Hall of Howells school in Cardiff and not being intimidated by the setting or the occasion. It is what we’re working for – ensuring our pupils can and do use their voices in any setting in an appropriate and useful manner to make links and build relationships.’ They have also used their CPD training and experience to help other schools within their area and will soon be offering oracy training to other schools in Cardiff.
But the impact doesn’t stop there. Not only has Bev seen a big difference in her pupils, she also links the school’s oracy work to its improving relationship with parents and families. ‘Some of our children’s families haven’t necessarily had a great school experience themselves. Now they come in and work with the children on oracy activities, including on World Book Day. It gives them an opportunity to use their voices too. Our school has become a much more open place for our community.’
For more information and to sign up for this year’s award please visit our Oracy Culture Award page.