The English-Speaking Union’s Oracy Culture Award is the only national award which recognises and celebrates those schools placing oracy at the heart of their curriculum. Oxford Spires Academy, our winner for 2022, impressed judges with its numerous and far-reaching oracy activities
Oracy Culture Award 2022 – the winner
We are delighted to announce Oxford Spires Academy as the winner of this year’s ESU Oracy Culture Award.
Highly commended by the judges in 2020, the state school in East Oxford impressed with its numerous and far-reaching oracy activities in which 20 per cent of the students now participate – a five-fold increase over the last two years.
The activities include full-year student-filmed speeches, a pantomime, a Shakespeare mentoring programme with local primary schools, and dedicated oracy tasks in subjects including history, art and languages, as well as more formal competitions such as the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition, the Schools’ Mace, Performing Shakespeare and various debating competitions.
‘As students have witnessed and heard about each other’s successes, more and more have wanted to become involved, creating a virtuous cycle of widening participation,’ says maths teacher Kate Morris, one of the three-strong Enrichment Team in charge of oracy activities. ‘Among the unexpected impacts are the friendships that have developed and flourished across different year groups, and the rapport students have built with staff away from the normal classroom context, which is incredibly valuable.’
Chair of judges, Gavin Illsley, ESU Head of Programmes, said, ‘Two aspects of Oxford Spires Academy’s oracy work stood out in particular. First is the way in which the teaching body makes a real effort to identify able but less confident speakers who may be reticent to put themselves forward for competitions. And second is the school’s emphasis on student coaching, recognising that this builds not only students’ oracy skills but also their mentoring and teaching capabilities too.’
We’ll leave the last word to Eva, a Year 12 student who participated (as a Year 11) in this year’s ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition. ‘The wide range of oracy opportunities available at OSA was one of the reasons I decided to stay for sixth form, as I knew it would be different at other schools. I have learnt skills which I will take into sixth form (and beyond!) for writing essays, summing up, asking questions, and of course, for public speaking and debating, and I’ve made friends with people I would never otherwise have met.’