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Home > What is oracy?

Oracy is to speaking what numeracy is to mathematics or literacy to reading and writing. Discover more about why it’s so important

What is oracy?

What is oracy?

Oracy is to speaking what numeracy is to mathematics or literacy to reading and writing. In short, it’s nothing more than being able to express yourself well. It’s about having the vocabulary to say what you want to say and the ability to structure your thoughts so that they make sense to others.

How do we measure oracy skills?

Our programmes, competitions and resources are based around four key oracy skillsets: reasoning and evidence; listening and response; expression and delivery and organisation and prioritisation. Just as numeracy and literacy are learnt, so these skillsets must be taught and, crucially, practised in order to develop proficiency.

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Why oracy matters

With employers now rating communication skills as their highest priority, above even qualifications, the ability to express ideas is more important than ever before. Yet oracy receives much less attention in the school curriculum than literacy and numeracy. Indeed, a recent study estimated pupils contributed on average just four words per lesson, while another revealed that children with good communication skills are four times more likely to get five A*-Cs at GCSE.

What are the benefits of teaching oracy?

The benefits of oracy skills go far beyond academic achievement and employability however, they boost a whole range of social, emotional and interpersonal skills, including self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience and empathy. Having the skills and confidence to speak up and believe in yourself has also been shown to enhance our sense of happiness and well-being, preventing the isolation that comes from feeling side-lined. As one of our alumni says, ‘If you teach kids to debate you give them a chance to have their voice heard, and you give them the power not to be ignored’. Need more proof? Hear from some of our alumni about the many ways in which the English-Speaking Union has helped to change their lives for the better.

Oracy - the facts

• Disadvantaged children are 2.3 times more likely to be identified as having speech, language and communication needs than those in more affluent areas (The Communication Trust)
• In many parts of the country, over 50 per cent of students start school lacking vital oracy skills (The Communication Trust)
• Young people who cannot express themselves verbally may suffer from behavioural problems, emotional and psychological difficulties and, in some cases, may descend into criminality (Owen)
• Some pupils in inner-city classes contribute on average just four words per lesson (National Literacy Trust)
• The UK’s poorest children start school 19 months behind their wealthier peers in language and vocabulary (National Literacy Trust)

Discover Debating has taught me to respect other people’s opinions and to solve arguments without a lot of drama and problems

Shiphrah

Discover Debating participant

The difference oracy makes

  • Children with good communication skills are four times more likely to get five A*-Cs at GCSE (Better Communication Research Programme)
  • High-quality spoken dialogue in primary classrooms can significantly improve children’s educational attainment, from improving SAT results in maths and science to improving reading, writing and reasoning skills (The Communication Trust)
  • Cognitively challenging classroom talk for children in Year 5 not only improves their language skills, but can also lead to gains equivalent to about two months’ additional progress in mathematics and science (Dialogic Teaching, Education Endowment Foundation)
  • Oracy improves literacy, including reading comprehension, spelling and writing (LKMco & Voice 21)
  • Spoken language plays a key role in cognitive development, helping children understand the world around them (LKMco & Voice 21)
  • 97% of teachers, 94% of employers and 88% of young people believe that life skills such as confidence, motivation, resilience and communication are as or more important than academic qualifications (Sutton Trust)
  • Evidence shows that oracy has a positive impact on academic and cognitive outcomes, self-esteem, well-being and mental health, social mobility, employability and civic engagement (Jay et al.; Hanley P P, Slavin R and Elliot L; Nagda B and Gurin P)
  • Social and emotional learning (SEL) which debate, public speaking and cultural exchange all foster, appear to be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged or low-attaining pupils (Education Endowment Foundation)

600,000

The number of young people across the world who are reached by our work each year. With your help, that could be more

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