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Home > News and views > Why oracy is important for primary schools

Why oracy is important for primary schools

Teacher presenting Oracy in Action to his class

Speaking and listening skills, communication, metacognition, knowledge recall, positive relationships. Closing the gap. Oracy supports all of these areas but is often a misunderstood, pigeon-holed or under-developed skill with limited exposure for children in primary schools. And yet the evidence clearly shows that supporting children with their oracy skills has benefits across the curriculum (see for example Jay et al., 2017), and has even more benefit for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or starting school with lower levels of language acquisition.

Which is why we have developed our new primary oracy curriculum programme, Oracy in Action. Based on a range of research and pedagogical approaches, married with the ESU’s unique delivery model developed over 100 years of oracy, speaking & listening, public speaking and debate education. Schools and teachers told us that they wanted and needed an easy-to-use tool to help their pupils to develop their oracy skills, that it couldn’t lead to additional work for the teaching staff, and that it had to be as ‘grab-and-go’ as possible. So that’s exactly what we provided!

We firmly believe that oracy is a skill – something to be taught, and not ‘caught’. This applies for teachers as well as pupils, so we provide built in CPD to complement the programme, as well as a teacher toolkit, additional resources and the opportunity to join further training, networking and support sessions. We also agree with the evidence (provided to the Oracy All Party Parliamentary Group Speak for Change report, among others) which indicates that if children don’t have the opportunity to develop these skills at an early age, the chance to close the language gap becomes much harder.

What is Oracy?

But what is oracy? There are many definitions but at the ESU we believe it comes down to being able to express yourself well. This might be oracy in the classroom, where you are encouraging children to debate the merits of a mathematical approach, or they are talking aloud to help them solidify their learning of a historical period or topic. It might be in the playground where children are able to resolve interpersonal disputes in a mature and measured way. Or it might be in a formal debate or public speaking setting such as an assembly, presentation or competition activity. For all of these examples, children need to be able to listen effectively, respond appropriately and support their views with reasoning and evidence. These oracy skills support their wider learning ability, as well as being core life skills they will need throughout and beyond their education, ensuring they leave school as healthy, happy and empowered citizens.

Oracy in Action helps schools to develop these oracy skills in a fun, engaging and age-appropriate oracy curriculum. We support children to think about their reasoning, to ensure they can listen to their peers and respond kindly (‘respectfully, I disagree’; ‘I understand what you’re saying, however’ etc). With clear sequencing and progression, a solid pedagogical underpinning, explicit links to the national curriculum and signposting to wider applications, Oracy in Action is your one-stop-shop for accessible and robust oracy provision.

Find out more about Oracy in Action, and how this can support your school to make the most of oracy skills development across the curriculum.

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