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Home > News and views > Oracy and the Curriculum for Wales

Oracy and the Curriculum for Wales

With the rollout commencing in 2022, the Curriculum for Wales is a brilliant opportunity to put oracy at the heart of all Welsh schools. Whether Welsh or English medium, providing learners with the chance to develop deeper understanding and build knowledge through discussion, spoken language, presentations and group work is embedded in all Areas of Learning. This article is a brief overview of the Welsh Curriculum for Wales, and keep an eye out for further explainers and resources for our Welsh schools & colleagues!

What is the Curriculum for Wales?

Educators in Wales will be very familiar with the new curriculum, as schools look to implement this and develop their own approaches to curriculum design. However, educators in other parts of the UK or from overseas may be less familiar. Education is a devolved issue for Wales, meaning that the Welsh government has the authority to set the direction for education across Wales, outside of Westminster control. This has presented the Welsh government with an exciting opportunity, like in Scotland, to devise a radical new approach to education.

The Curriculum for Wales is described as a framework, which supports schools to develop their own curriculum, underpinned by the four purposes and across six areas of learning. The aim is to create an integrated education offer for all children and young people, promoting cross-disciplinary teaching, learning and assessment, with freedom for schools, teachers and practitioners to tailor their offer to the needs of their learners and communities.

How does oracy feature in the new Curriculum for Wales?

Oracy has been specifically referenced by the Welsh government, especially in the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning, with a useful explainer covering their three highlighted oracy areas of Speaking, Listening, and Collaboration and Discussion. Having speaking and listening separated is something we are very pleased to see, as it’s important to remember that oracy is as much about listening as it is about speaking.

The specific inclusion of Collaboration and Discussion is also very welcomed, as it signifies that the Welsh government has recognised the importance not only of the positive cognitive processes which discussing topics and concepts brings, but that these collaborative speaking skills are just that – skills which need to be scaffolded, taught and encouraged. In the explainer you can see the progression from speaking in groups of peers, through to complex discussions involving all learners, taking turns and building on previous arguments or points. By Years 9 and 10 learners are expected to be able to adapt their speaking for the role they are playing, give formal presentations and adapt their talks to different audiences – all skills that our Public Speaking Competition explicitly develop for this age group. Throughout all ESU programmes we advocate for the specific teaching of these collaborative and discursive skills, both to support the personal development of young people and to support them to better engage with curriculum content.

However, to focus only on Literacy, Languages and Communication would be to do a disservice to the wider Curriculum for Wales. There are plentiful opportunities for learners to engage in meaningful oracy activities woven throughout the curriculum and all six Areas of Learning.

Oracy in Expressive Arts

As would be expected, oracy features heavily in the Expressive Arts Area of Learning. In the introduction to this Area, the curriculum states ‘The aim is to provide learners with opportunities to explore, refine and communicate [sic] ideas while thinking creatively and engaging their imagination and senses.’ Communication is key – this is what oracy ultimately is after all, and while the communication here may take many forms, it remains that this Area of Learning is looking to encourage creative communication which others can understand. Responding to work as artists and audience members is key, which maps closely to our Listening & Response key skillset, supporting learners to develop active listening and appropriate responses to what they learn, consume and see.

This Area of Learning also links closely to Expression & Delivery, building confidence and appropriate performance or presentation skills relevant to an art form, situation or task – for example through taking part in our Performing Shakespeare competition.

Humanities

‘This Area encourages learners to engage with the most important issues facing humanity, including sustainability and social change, and help to develop the skills necessary to interpret and articulate the past and the present.’

The Humanities Area provides ample opportunity for students to develop their oracy skills through structured and unstructured discussion, debate and presentations. Providing students with the opportunities to discuss what may be challenging or controversial topics helps them to see other points of view, as well as deepening their own subject knowledge. The curriculum even highlights that ‘It is important that learners have opportunities to discuss and explore their personal perspectives on religious and non-religious worldviews, ethical challenges and social inclusion issues.’

Using a formal debate, like a Balloon Debate or a full Mace debate, provides structure to what may be challenging conversations where young people are exploring their own thoughts and feelings on a topics, and links closely to all four of the ESU’s key skillsets.

Mathematics and Numeracy

There is a focus on developing mathematical thinking and logical reasoning throughout this Area. While oracy is not referenced specifically, many of the approaches endorsed in this Area lend themselves well to oracy strategies to embed and develop learning. For example, a group discussion on the best approach to a mathematical problem or challenge, or working as a team to construct a bridge of suitable strength. Having an understanding that oracy skills, and effective verbal communication, is important for all areas of learning and can be embedded into all lessons helps students to have a rounded and engaging approach to their learning.

Science and Technology

This Area focusses on supporting learners to become informed and resilient citizens, able to use technology responsibly and effectively as well as developing critical thinking skills and an appreciation for data and reasoning. The six Statements of What Matters for this Area all provide amble opportunity to engage students in discussion and debate, both to develop learning and to put their formal speaking skills into practice. With a focus on Reasoning & Evidence, this is a great Area to develop students’ use of appropriate facts, and to challenge information they receive developing their digital literacy.

Health and Wellbeing

This important Area of learning is concerned with developing resilience and ethical, informed citizens, with positive mental and physical health. The Area looks to support learners to develop healthy relationships and habits, understand decision making on a micro and macro level, and how to process thoughts and feelings. We know through a wide range of evidence that having the language and confidence to express how you feel – either to friends or family or to, for example, medical professionals – can have hugely beneficial impacts. And that not having the language or confidence to communicate your needs, thoughts and feelings can be very detrimental. Providing opportunities for learners to discuss issues which may be worrying them, or supporting them to have the language and ability to express emotions and thoughts appropriately, is key to success in this Area and with embedded oracy opportunities throughout the curriculum learners will have the best chance to thrive.

How can the ESU help further?

The Curriculum for Wales provides a wonderful opportunity to embed oracy throughout the school. With opportunities for verbal discussions and debates to deepen knowledge, through to opportunities to practice formal speaking, with the development of positive relationships through communication and everything in between, oracy should be at the heart of all curriculum development for Welsh schools.

The ESU’s four key skillsets can map directly to the Curriculum for Wales, supporting schools to build a framework and internal assessment process which gives them confidence that their learners are progressing. Primary schools can access our ready-made oracy curriculum, developing vital speaking and listening skills and the tools for effective discussion via Oracy in Action. And offering your students the opportunity to put their skills into practice via our competitions elevates their skills, and provides a platform to celebrate high quality oracy.

Visit the ESU’s stand at the National Education Show in Cardiff this October, to find out more about how we can support your school’s oracy journey

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